Eyeing A1

A look at newspaper front pages from around the country

Archive for the ‘Semiotics’ Category

Video Remix Essay #2: Why I did what I did

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From the very beginning of the video “Remix on Homosexual Relationships from 1950s to Now” I wanted to talk about homosexual relationship. I lead with a pair of hands because I want there to be a surprise first that there are two men touching hands as opposed to a heterosexual relationship. From that point, almost every image focused on same-sex couple of 1940-50s educational videos and contemporary Super Bowl ads.

The images that didn’t focus on same-sex couples reinforced homosexual stereotypes. Specially, the clip of the African-American saying “Ooooweeee,” after a gym teacher says, “Here’s the penis.” Homosexual African-American men have a stereotype of being flamboyant and that clip reinforces that idea as it was shown in a banned Super Bowl commercial ad from this year.

Jim Nantz’s clip of “How ‘bout not,” is used throughout the video as the true voice as what is being said in today’s society. Every free audio clip is used from marriage educational videos about freedom to choose who want to marry and love. However, in 2010, people are still fighting for their right to marry whom they want. Jim Nantz is the white male who is telling them this isn’t actually the case.

There were some difficulties in trying to find the right type of videos for women. Homosexual women are usually portrayed as masculine. Pretty women who have lesbian tendencies are usually just experimenting. There weren’t many videos that showed women together. In fact, the only contemporary clip I could find of two women was dressed in golf clothing in masculine looking outfits. Women don’t seem to be portrayed as just friends as they were in 1950s educational films. As much as we have changed in 60 years, it seems women had better relationships with each in the 1950s educational films than they do now.

At the every end, the quick clips with the different same-sex couples are just to show them as people. Fading cuts in-between each shot give them their own place even for a moment. Each couple deserves their own time just has heterosexual couples get the bulk of the attention.

But, of course, the white male gets in the last word.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

April 29, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Is ‘I Live Here’ journalism?

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I don’t consider ‘I Live Here” journalism. It’s great non-fiction, but not journalism. There was research done and the telling of stories, but to be considered journalism there needs to be other sources than just the victims.

That doesn’t mean, however, journalists can’t learn from the presentation of ‘I Love Here’ and how to get similar emotional effects out of their readers.

Words and black and white pictures aren’t going to cut it anymore. There are reasons newspaper subscriptions are dwindling, which obvious reasons are the availability of news on the Internet and other mediums. Newspaper companies are using the Internet, but aren’t making money. Many of the pay-wall sites haven’t done well, which is well documented.

How can newspapers (and when I say newspaper, I don’t change mean the physical paper) change?

I found ‘I Live Here’ engaging and that’s what newspapers need to do to engage the readers.

I think too many newspapers don’t think of presentation enough. They are more concerned with just cramming as many words into ever-decreasing pages. Visually, to me, that’s unappealing. It’s proven by the fact that I rarely look at the newspaper that is delivered to my home. I still pay for it. I like knowing I have the option for the paper because I still prefer looking at the physical paper to a website.

However, if I knew a newspaper changed its presentation, I would be interested in looking at it to see what was different.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

April 25, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Looking at race on the front page

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After last week’s discussion in class, I wanted to find a newspaper front page that directly dealt with race.

I found the sub-headline aptly titled for the piece “Conflicting portrait.”

To give more meaning to that headline, The Star Ledger incorporates two photos of the black man. The first is a small headshot, but he looks angry and the photo itself actually looks darker. When looking at the newspaper it’s actually the first photo you see because many people tend to read top to bottom and left to right.

It’s interesting to note on the paper’s website, only the mug shot appears, which the reporter writes: “If a picture says a thousand words, the mug shot police released said “guilty” a thousand times.”

The man pictured in the newspaper is Lee Evans. He was arrested in March on five counts of murder in the disappearance of five teenagers 32 years ago. The article paints a portrait of Evans where is seen as a good person by his friends and family, but neighborhood folks have a much different view of him.

The lede of the story is nearly as important as the photos and the headline.

Here are the first two paragraphs:

Two pictures, one man. One continuing mystery.

Lee Evans was one of two cousins charged in March with five counts of murder in the disappearance of five city teenagers 32 years ago. Police said he was a menacing 6-foot-4, 225-pound street thug known as “Big Man” who kept a dark secret for three decades through intimidation of accomplices and witnesses. If a picture says a thousand words, the mug shot police released said “guilty” a thousand times.

By this point, he already sounds guilty. In fact, the reporter is using the image to make an argument.  Not facts or stories, but an image of the man to make a quick case. By writing these things at the very beginning of an article, the reporter is telling the viewer how to see the photo. There is not much left to intepretation.

Our brains already begin to move in one direction once we learn the headshot is actually a mugshot. That, of course, has a negative connotation associated with it.

This is a tough story because you’re dealing with a case of where is being charged with murder. Obviously, something happened where five teens are missing, but instead of writing about the boys who went missing 32 years ago, this newspaper paints a portrait of a man where they are initially negative.

Only toward the bottom of the article does it state there is no physical evidence against him and that there is only person witness.

The article ends with this:

This is not to say Evans is innocent. In Hampton’s story, only eight people would know for certain what happened on Aug. 20, 1978, and six of them are dead. That leaves Hampton and Evans.

If the police have more on him, they’re not saying. And that leaves two pictures, one man, one continuing mystery.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

April 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Looking at roles given to women

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Last Thursday in class, I thought we had one of more the interesting discussions when we talked about the passage we read in Visual Culture on Gendering the Gaze.  Briefly, the chapters discussed that as viewers we need to get passed the voyeuristic tendencies when watching movies. Additionally, the only time women really care about films is when they can relate to the female lead.

Laura Mulvey’s “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” argued that men are usually the protagonist and woman are merely objectified by the male gaze.

We can look at every big action summer blockbuster type of film and this still seems true. In Transformers, you have an average-looking make protagonist who needs to save humanity with a ridiculous good-looking woman, who falls for the guy.

Here’s a screen cap from the movie:

What does that have to do with the plot? Absolutely nothing and that’s part of the problem many of these writers are saying.

One of the movies that was brought up in class was Tomb Raider. There you have a strong female lead in Angelina Jolie, but still the producers of the film padded Jolie’s chest to give her a D-size bra. According, to an interview done with Jolie, she is already a C and the video game character is a DD. So, this was a nice compromise.

Mulvey states in he essay – which is from 1975, by the way – “The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.”

Thirty years later, most movies have no moved beyond that attitude. Even when women have strong leading roles, for the most part they objectified for the male viewer.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

April 7, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Essay on the photo essay

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There are portions of Atlantic City that aren’t seen by visitors or even those that live there. Apart from the casinos, it’s a not a town anyone would go visit. There’s corruption in the government and crime on the streets. There are also people who live under the Boardwalk and call it home. I focused most of my photo set on this.

Almost every photo has alphabetic text that I incorporated with it. These weren’t captions but supplements to the photos to help make the message clearer.

If we look at the pure image of many of the photos, there is too much left to interpretation by the receiver. So what if there is a guy smoking a cigarette on a street corner or a closed supermarket? To get the reader to look deeper and see the message I want them to see, I added alphabetic text (in certain colors and fonts), different tones and captions.

Take the pictures of the two homeless men. There are two sentences in each photo. One describes who this man was before he found his way onto the streets. The other is how outsiders view him.

The ‘homeless’ stamp is in big, Hollywood-type font and bright colors because it is the initial reaction people have when they see them. The other sentence is smaller because it usually takes people looking harder and deeper to get to the truth.

It was important to highlight what I wanted people to look in each photo. The alphabetic text is arguably more important than the photo itself. I wanted people to see how they immediately label situations and how the subjects often time view the situation.

In Visual Culture: A Reader, Roland Barthes says, “We are still a civilization of writing, writing and speech continuing to be full terms of the informational structure (p. 38).” The captions accompany the alphabetic text in the photos to explain to the reader what the signifieds are in the image and to avoid everything else in the photo.

The very first image in the set has alphabetic text that evokes a different meaning of the pure image. The connotation signifies a warm, cozy place to live, somewhere a person feels comfortable and where they are always welcome. However, the picture – which purposely is hued in sepia tones to convey sadness – is of a place under the Atlantic City Boardwalk. To most of us, this is not a home. The text is to show the dichotomy between the thought of the saying and what is actually pictured.

The last photo perhaps was the most striking and had the least work done to it. I didn’t write the alphabetic text. They are handwritten names of dead homeless people. However, it was important to make it this last photo. I showed how some of the homeless lived leading up to this photo, but there is an end to all of them, and often to early. The homeless community is tighter than many realize and the people we walk past daily have names and have people who care about them. I put the photo last because I wanted their life to be shared first before we find out how it all ends.

The pictory was also mocked up.

This was the original photo taken of the Atlantic City beach.

raw Pictory photo

It was a cold, cloudy day and doesn’t evoke a feeling of happiness, summer and wanting to splash in the blue water. I changed the hues of the picture to make the photo more vibrant and have the colors really stand out. Bright colors evoke a feeling of happiness and joy, but one has to wonder why the beach is empty on what looks like a summer day.

A place that was once happy and probably full of kids running and laughing is empty, but there are people nearby. The homeless living under the Boardwalk with probably the best view of the ocean.

Here’s a link to the entire set and Pictory.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

March 25, 2010 at 11:00 am

Let’s think for ourselves

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Advertising is a perfect example of visual rhetoric. They get you to think about what they want. The advertisers are getting their message across. This topic came up while discussing Visual Culture when the topic gravitated toward anchorage. Anchorage is text within a picture that grounds the reader into following a train of thinking.

You can take an innocuous object, include text and there is life to it.

Obviously, there are times when you see an ad and think, ‘Well, that was just ridiculous.’

But think about every ad played during the Super Bowl. Doritos, Snickers and Bud Light all conveyed the message that their product is fun and funny. By enjoying their product we don’t have to take anything too seriously. Why? Because that’s what the advertisers told us.

In class, we discussed how text with a picture gives you guidance into what the sender is trying to say. But what if that text is wrong. I’ve seen in newspapers when a caption is wrong. Why do we have to rely on other to make own opinion?

A good exercise when it comes to advertising is to look at a picture without the text. Imagine what the picture is trying to say.

Here’s an ad from Dunkin Donuts. I cropped out the words to the ad so you can see just the picture by itself. The first thing I notice is the body placement of the people. They are doing ‘Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,’ while sitting behind a table.

There are no drinks or food on the table. Just a small vase on each.

Next, I look at what the people wearing. They are all wearing green aprons. For anyone who has visited Starbucks, this is similar to what the Starbucks baristas wear.

Clearly, Dunkin’ Donuts is mocking Starbucks, but why? They are in competition with each other. DD caters to a different crowd than Starbucks. After seeing just the picture without the text, what do you think is the ad’s message.

… I’ll wait.

Here’s the entire ad.

So, DD took Starbucks ’employees’ and they are so loyal to their company that they won’t speak bad about the coffee even though DD has superior coffee. Awesome.

Good thing I don’t drink coffee.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

February 23, 2010 at 12:03 am

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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It’s easy to think of William Blake as just a poet. His works have been read, scrutinized and studied for centuries. But just calling Blake a poet would be unfair. He understood the importance of multimodality and how telling the same story in different ways could lead to a deeper and more meaningful message.

Blake was an artist with words, images, and often, music. According to this article from Canada’s University Affairs, Blake set many of his poems to melodies.

While we do not have the melodies any longer, there are many people who have found their own music for his pieces. Here’s one example:

In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the words can exist without the pictures or the music. There is still meaning to them, but it difficult to imagine how the pictures would exist without the words. Sure, the etchings would be open to amazing interpretation, but the words give the pictures meaning while giving the reader insight into what Blake thought when he wrote this.

The pictures also have a way of leaving a lasting impression as opposed to just reading black text on a white page. In Sean Hall’s This Means This, This Means That: A Guide to Semiotics, the prominence section becomes an interesting aspect.

There is a list of 31 words separated by a line. One word is highlighted in yellow and another has a strike through.

On the next page, Hall asks to recite as many words as you can remember.

Usually, the words that are different from others or the words with personal meanings are easily remembered. These words have more prominence than the others.

That’s what Blake does with his poems. He adds prominence.

The pictures provide the poems personality. One picture could also hit home more than others and therefore become personal to the reader, thus making the poem or just that plate more memorable and effective.

Written by Susan Lulgjuraj

February 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm