Exercise – Re-contextualise some pictures from a newspaper using the techniques of anchoring and relaying.
It is in this module that photography, as viewed in many possible contexts, is considered and how these contexts might help shape the view of the narrative within the photographs. The previous exercise allowed for the viewing of Bryony Campbell’s photographic essay the dad project and W Eugene Smith’s picture essay that was printed with a fairly significant written accompaniment.The text in these photographic projects helped the authors guide viewers through the narrative of the photographic stories seeing the intention as it’s been contextualised.
Roland Barthes gave us two useful terms for defining different ways of using words with pictures, in his 1967 essay, “Rhetoric of the Image” – Anchor, which is to use accompanying text to prevent misinterpretation and Relay, which is to create a fuller picture when the text and image have equal status allowing still for some ambiguity and interpretation. Anchoring is commonly used in advertising as well as newspaper articles with the political affiliations of the newspaper repeatedly reaffirmed. Relaying – where image and text complement each other in a form that sits well with a post-modern view of narrative.
Two photographs were chosen from the online ‘newspaper’ MSN. One of the images is an image of the late Princess Diana from 1982 and is recognisable as an image that has been published reasonably regularly over three decades. The second image chosen is a contemporary war image.
Image 1 – Reproduced for educational purposes – ©REX – Royal Tour of Wales, Britain, Nov 1982, Princess Diana.
This image was found in context through the MSN Homepage, 22nd May 2017, woman-who-hired-princess-diana-as-a-dollar5-an-hour-nanny
The accompanying text, as can be seen – link above, describes how Diana Spencer in 1980 for as $5 an hour nanny who was wonderful with Mrs Robertson’s child and would pick up toys, wash dishes and d laundry whilst caring on a part-time basis for the businesswoman’s toddler Patrick.
The narrative of the image is that of a beautiful young princess. This image was particularly successful due to the contre jour, the unusual style jusxtaposition of the blue veiled hat, the rustic jacket and Diana’s famous eyes. Here in 1982 she has been captured separate enough from those she is with on the tour, albeit by not only composition but by use of a shallow depth of field and this being ‘alone’ has made it a useful ‘go-to’ image for later reference to Diana in her earlier days in the media spotlight.
The image could be re-contextualised as below.
The above contextualisation given by the added text moves the reader/viewer away from the Royal Tour of Wales and is completely disconnected from the recent contextualisation of Diana’s early employment as a nanny when she was first revealed to be engaged to Prince Charles. There have been many instances of Diana being commented on for her clothing choices. When she has been commented on for appearance there has sometimes also been an omission of the real purpose of her being out in the public eye. This particular re-contextualising is a use of anchoring the image for use in a publication that wishes to present a story to their readers with a particular angle in accordance with their target market’s perceived interests and the political stance of the publication.
The above image of Princess Diana has been re-contextualised using text definable as relay for the information it provides allowing the bounce back and forth of image and text that complement each other without directing the viewer’s perception.
The final re-contextualised image of Princess Diana shows another example of anchoring. The text allows for a veiled criticism of the Royal family, suggesting that Diana may be unhappy and struggling by choosing a photograph without a big beaming smile and enhancing a viewer’s perception of the photograph by directing the viewer toward a sense that this was a princess troubled not by photographers but by the strains of family, specifically the Royal family, and duties that leave her trapped.
The next image is of a soldier in the Ukraine. This image was also found through the MSN home page. The context of the image where I found it through the MSN homepage was that it was being used as part of a news article stating that further flare-ups of violence had been reported in the Ukraine. The article reports the consequences of violence by viewing the reality of a non-soldier in the Ukraine. The added difficulties of the female 31-year-old due to the additional violence and fears that she has for her and her family because of the risks inherent in the fighting at what is being reported. The photograph is of a Ukrainian soldier patrolling past the ruins of a school. The image is one purchased from an agency as many documentary photographs used for publication of news stories are.
Image 2 – Reproduced for educational purposes – of Ukrainian Soldier patrolling past the ruins of a former school – © AFP – Pisky, Donetsky, 26th October 2015
The report and photograph in context as they appeared in the MSN article can be found at, https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/fears-of-new-flareup-in-ukraine-as-violence-grows-on-frontline/
The image can be re-contextualised differently by using text to anchor or to relay. This image is re-contextualised below.
The above image shows the soldier and is contextualised with the text that’s been placed below it. Here the text anchors the image by making suggestion of political realities and domestic effect in the form of young soldiers being recruited.
The above image is contextualised by text that again includes some notion of the political. Here the political aspects of the text are less obviously biased. There is no mention of young soldiers though that the war here may be Ukrainian versus Russian is mentioned in a non-definite form so this contextualisation could be labelled an anchor or it could still be defined as relay as it does add information without being particularly strong in its possibility of directing a viewer and / or reader. I would choose to label this as relay; I feel it is more in keeping with the post-modern standard of allowing a viewer to form their opinion through the room that is left for them between the image and the text.
The above image is contextualised by the text that describes reports of increased violence and a likelihood of the continuation of fighting. The text does not anchor the image with an ‘angle’ in keeping with the politicisation of any publication we could imagine this image featuring in. The image is contextualised by text that relays the information of both text and photograph in a form that refrains from positioning the viewer.
We can see that the exercise of anchoring and relaying images by text can allow for increased authorial control; though dependent upon the level of authorial control taken, by anchoring, the viewer can feel much directed and question the author’s stance and intention. Text alongside photography is not only used by news agencies but can be used in art photography, documentary photography and is often used alongside gallery exhibits of photography be they portraiture, landscape or constructed realities. Contemporary times means that this gallery style standard of text accompanying photographs is typically used when photographs are published in online galleries.
Barthes, R, (1967), Rhetoric of the Image – available online via – [http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Barthes-Rhetoric-of-the-image-ex.pdf – Last accessed 25/05/17]