Shae Plant: Visual Social Semiotics

blue-is-the-warmest-colour-adele-and-lea.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-02 at 4.08.27 PM.pngContext:

  • Film: Blue is the Warmest Colour
  • Year: 2013


From a visual and social semiotic perspective this screenshot from the French film, ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ exploits the common techniques used by film makers in portraying the romantic relationship between two people. The viewer is engaged and included in moments like this but they are not entirely within the frame. This effect is achieved through the close distance of the shot, framing and avoidance of direct eye contact with the viewer. The expression of the character to the left is the most salient feature, leading out of the frame. From this we can gage that she does not experience the same level of love and devotion of her partner.

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  • Artist: Frida Kahlo
  • Title: Me and my parrots
  • Year: 1941
  • Genre: Artwork


This famous artwork by Frida Kahlo uses the direct contact of woman’s gaze to help the viewer experience her pain and suffering. She is seated in medium shot in classic portrait style. With a stiff posture that almost makes you feel as though you have to reassess your own. Her facial expression is demanding, intriguing and powerful and along with the crisp whiteness or her shirt the most salient feature. Her face sits in the top centre of the composition creating both a information value of importance and a perspective view of slight superiority.


Compositional Interpretation – Hannah Plowman

 -Image 1 – Scenes


The Bride Vs. O-Ren (1/2)

From the film Kill Bill vol. 1 (2003) – Quentin Tarantino

Published on Jul 24, 2014

Entertainment purposes





These frames were taken from a scene in Quentin Tarantino’s film ‘Kill Bill vol. 1’. The scene showcases a fight between The Bride and O-Ren, where here they are steadying themselves for the attack. Tarantino has matched O-Ren’s wardrobe to the Mise en Scene, with cold hues and dark, contrasting values as a means of character exposition. All three frames use mid-shots of the characters, but hold O-Ren as the dominant aggressor, with her shots only showcasing her, as opposed to The Bride, who shares her space. The Bride’s colours and the light coming from behind her do not match the environment, showing that she is a foreign part of the space. The Bride’s eye-line is lower than O-Ren, making her opponent seem stronger than her. The camera movements favour O-Ren, panning up with her eye-level and tilting over her head in the second frame to make the audience look down on The Bride.

Image 2


‘Sad Eyes’
Digital Print
Commercial Sale
Image size: 8X10



‘Sad Eyes’ is a piece of digital art created by SarahSpringStudio on her account for commercial sale. It shows the caricature of a kitten with large eyes and a sad expression looking out of frame in an urban setting. There is one main focal point with secondary points drawing the eyes back to the centre.

While the viewer is initially drawn to the eyes, the block of natural sunlight situated behind the kitten’s head, contrasting the red bricks with its washed-out hue leads the eyes astray, only for the gaze to be brought back to the main focal point with the reflection of the same light in the kitten’s eyes.

Horizontally, the image is broken into approximately even thirds, with the sections separated by the line between the bricks and the concrete and the beginning of the block of light on the bricks versus the shaded wall.

Image 3


mutual thing


Digital drawing

Artistic CC




‘mutual thing’ by Apofiss was posted on Deviant Art and showcased on a thread called ‘My God, It’s Full Of Cats! The Very Best Artwork Of Cats In Space’. The image shows a dark setting with splotches of light as a cat reaches from the edge of a grassy Cliffside out to a bubble containing a goldfish. These various light sources are all situated behind the two subjects, giving them soft outlines.

Each element has a way of drawing the viewer’s gaze towards it. The main focal point lies between the cat and the fish, as this is where the action is taking place. However the scattering of light sources also pull the eye around the image. The goldfish stands out as it is the brightest component, the cat stands out as it is the darkest contrasted against soft white light behind it. While the centre with the eyelines create a focaliser, as does the only piece of land, there is no clear horizon line.


‘Sad eyes’ draws its focaliser to the face, whereas ‘mutual things’ draws its focus to an interaction. Both however source light in order to draw the viewer to specific elements, seen in the lights in ‘Sad eyes’’ subject’s eyes and surrounding and illuminating the interacting subjects in ‘mutual things’. ‘Sad eyes’ has a very clear space established with bright, naturally lit hues as opposed to ‘mutual things’, with dark, soft elements and no clear lines or horizon.

Semiotics – Hannah Plowman

Image 1


Campaign: Words Kill Wars, ADOT.COM

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Japan

Art Director: Junkichi Tatsuki

Producer: Yohei Mori

Released: April 2014

Print Campaign – Persuasive Advertising – Photography and digital enhancement



This print campaign by ADOT.COM uses simple metonymic imagery to contrast the threat of war with ideals of peace. The by-line is swapped around so that the binary opposites are paired with their contrasting words, indicating a ‘fight’ amongst the elements. The two elements are icons for opposing sides, showing Russia as the aggressors and Ukraine as the defendants with a peaceful alternative to destruction. These signify the outcomes, explosions and chaos versus intelligence and words to be written. Both elements are ready to be used, the bomb has not exploded and the pencil is not blunt, thereby paradigmatic as the persuasive campaign leaves it for the viewer to decide which side will be activated.

Image 2


Campaign: Bring back the child UNICEF

Agency: Leo Burnett

Country: Sri Lanka


Print Campaign – Persuasive Advertising – Photography and digital enhancement,d.dGo&psig=AFQjCNFoNjQ4z0WJpjk8CXvhff80mdEK9A&ust=1471313828825859



This print campaign depicts a young girl contrasted between two different lives, with the movement of her dancing leading into the image of her as a child solider. This syntagmatic use of contrasting elements tells the viewer that they are able to affect which place she ends up in. The anchorage in the campaign’s logo and the by-line explain the metonymic signifiers of war versus peace and freedom. While the message of help for children in need is able to reach a universal audience, the image employs culturally specific dress, leading the elements to be seen as an index.


Both print campaigns focus on anti-war propaganda, the difference being their appeal. UNICEF’s campaign appeals to the viewer on an emotional level, employing the subject of a young girl to make the terrors of war harder-hitting as it is affecting a child. ADOT.COM focuses on an alternate solution to war, where instead of destroy we build and educate. However, both pictures use binary opposites that blend into the one image in order to establish paradigmatic meaning. Both also use anchors to lead the viewer to interpret the correct meaning. While the cultural approach is different, both images use symbolic representations of war in contrast to a peaceful, better alternative that the viewer is encouraged to take part in.

Visual Social Semiotics – Hannah Plowman

Image 1


Photo: Sylwia Makris – Fine Art Photography

Model: Melanie Gaydos

Designer: Katarzyna Konieczka

Make-up: DOLLY’s World of Make-up




This photo by Sylwia Makris depicts model Melanie Gaydos in a dark setting, with her arms suspended at the wrists by thin rope. Makris creates a narrative that, we, the audience are looking in to. The darkness helps frame the piece and establish a disconnect between the subject on their stage and the viewer. Situating the model on a higher platform also creates distance. The realism photography features a high modality subject, while the darker background is softened into a lower modality. The subject’s gaze is demanding, as if she is approaching the viewer despite her loose restraints, her eyes saying “untie me”. The light falls on her face and hands, creating salient elements that draw focus to Makris’s intended narrative.

Image 2


The secrets between two…

Bella Kotak Photography

Model: Anna @ Le Management

Model: Mathilde @ Le Management

Hair & Makeup Artist: Maria Leonhard Bødker

Styling: Bella Kotak Photography

Skin retouching: Solstice Retouch




This staged photograph by Bella Kotak Photography depicts two young women stood close together, surrounded by flowers. The eye-line of the subject facing us employs her frontality and matches with the viewer’s, making us an observer on her level, as if we are there with her. The subject’s gaze is engaging, but still looking out of frame, implying that the scene does not end within the bounds of the portrait, making the viewer part of the space. There is also no physical framing around the edge of the piece. The subject on the left speaks for the both of them, as if they have been discovered in this place, as they are, and she is simply acknowledging the viewer. There is a look of contentment on her face, her passive stance making her gaze an offer. She engages with us while the subject on her right engages with her. There is one salient point in the piece, the two girls’ faces, this is where the modality is at its highest. The narrative is implied through the use of props and costumes, creating context that would not have existed without these elements.


Both images are staged in a way to create a loose narrative through the artistic exploration of colour, lighting and physical elements. Both employ specific elements in their Mise en Scene in order to establish a specific mood. Kotak’s image evokes a sense of intimacy, with no implied edge, the viewer is ‘allowed in’, with the subjects much closer in terms of distance. Makris’ image has a colder physical disconnect as an audience member, even though the subject is still directly engaging. The audience is ‘lesser’, looking up to the subject, framed in her stage by the dark values. Physically, both pictures are ‘soft’ but Makris’ demanding gaze creates a disturbance, with a subject that interacts with her background as opposed to a fellow subject. Overall the comparison of the pictures could be reduced to a simple light versus dark response. One offers its space and one demands the viewer watch their space.

Shae Plant: Semiotics


Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 3.19.32 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-02 at 3.18.53 PM.pngContext:

  • Title: Free your skin 2
  • Advertising Agency: Y&R Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Designer: Lex Fleming
  • Year: 2014


This clever advertisement by ‘Schnick’ a razorblade company persuades consumers to buy it’s products by using a variety of semiotic cues. Firstly, the image contains an icon of young man with tattoos, looking stern and angrily out of the frame while his beard (a undomesticated animal of some sort) looks directly out at you. The animal is a signifier of unruliness, dirtiness and hairiness. Within this context the claws of the animal syntagmatically sign that the beard and uncomfortableness are inextricably linked.

These metonymic elements long with the ‘Free your skin’ anchorage have the combined diegesis of communicating to the viewer that the beard is making the man uncomfortable and angry and the solution to this problem is through the product.


Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 3.20.28 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-09-02 at 3.20.40 PM.pngContext:

  • Company: New York Film Academy
  • Advertising agency: Red Cell, Milan, Italy
  • Photographer: Mauro Turatti
  • Year: 2008

This image also uses semiotics to create effect and meaning. From afar the image is clearly a symbol of ‘popcorn at the movies’ however upon closer inspection, one discovers that the popcorn is not not popcorn, but groups of crumpled paper inside a rubbish can. The paper being a signifier for crushed dreams, writers block and wasted ideas combines with the anchorage, ‘Want to write something good for the cinema?’ to persuade young hopefuls that their dreams and talent can be achieved through the New York Film Academy.

Another point of semiotic interest is the inclusion of a light switch in the centre-left. It is illogical to have a switch in that location (who has a light switch on the floor?) so clearly it contributes to the meaning of the advertisement. Looking at the relationship between the signified and the signifier we can conclude that the switch represents ‘switching on’ and as such provides a connect between the viewer’s past and future.

Elizabeth Whittaker – Visual and Social Semiotic Analysis

Image One: Afghan Girl

Afghan Girl


Photographer: Steve McCurry

Year of Creation: 1984

Style: Portrait

Genre: Photographic Portrait


Afghan Girl2

Many social and semiotic theories are exemplified by this image of a young Afghan girl. This image was take of a 13 year old girl in Afghanistan while her country was amidst turmoil and suffering. Without prior knowledge of the image’s context, however, much of the story is told through the image. The girl’s wide eyes and unsmiling face demands the viewer acknowledge her situation, which can be seen through her worn skin and clothes. This image highlights the plight of children living in wartime by using facial frontality to force the viewer to engage with the girl’s face, and the horizontal angle to place her and the viewer at equals levels. Her body faces away from he viewer, as if she is afraid to approach front-on. The use of red and green contrast highlight the most salient part of the image, her eyes, which are reminiscent of a shell shocked soldier. The burka framing her face provides little respite for the viewer, as they are compelled to meet eyes with this traumatized girl. This image is incredibly effective in engaging the viewer and expressing the photographer’s intention – not to forget the children harmed by war.


Image Two: In the Garden



Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Media: Oil on canvas

Year of creation: 1885

Dimensions: 67 x 44 inches

Style: Impressionism




Renoir’s painting of two young lovers in a garden conveys a social relationship and narrative within the image through his use of vectors – the actors are the man and the woman. The man acts upon his goal, the woman, by gazing at her as if he were in the process of proclaiming his love for her. To the viewer, their relationship with the man is as a spectator as he does not engage the viewer with eye-contact. The woman, conversely, meets the gaze of the viewer, although she does not face them. This gives the impression that the pair have been “caught” during this intimate moment, making the viewer voyeuristic in nature. It is clear from the woman’s smile and reciprocal action upon the man with the vectors of her arms that she is pleased, albeit sheepish having been caught during an intimate moment. The impressionist style of this image creates a romantic snapshot of this scene, with soft focus and saturated colours creating a dream-like feel.


Both images feature a social relationship with the viewer and a young woman, however in opposing situations. McCurry’s image of the Afghan girl shows great restraint by excluding props or a detailed background and focusing entirely on the expression of the girl. Without context it is difficult to find a point of reference for her particular situation, apart from the tattered headscarf, however this information is not needed to convey the meaning of the image – that the future for this girl is uncertain. The contrasting warmth of Renoir’s image provides a more depiction of things to come for this young couple.

Shae Plant: Compositional Interpretation


Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 1.24.50 PM

IMAGE ONE: ‘Charlotte’s Web’


  • Artist: BLT Communications
  • Title: Charlotte’s Web Movie 
  • Year of creation: 2006
  • Media: Print and Web
  • Genre: Poster


This is a poster advertising the children’s movie ‘Charlottes Web.’ It features a seated young girl, below a spider web, in a natural setting surrounded by various farm animals, creating a warm familial vibe. The layout is systematically designed to draw the viewer’s eye to the smallest but most important character in the film (the spider). Spatially organised into approximate halves to balance the complex foreground with the negative space of the sky. Two buildings appear somewhat isolated in the background, distanced but connected via a curved path to leading to the foreground. The simple horizon places the viewer in a child-like perspective, at eye level with it’s occupants, with an equalising effect maintained by the direct gaze of the main characters. 
With vibrant saturation and a diverse use of hues (greens, atmospheric blues, yellow, browns and white) creating a photo-realistic effect, the natural lighting and dominant light source further suggests a bright summer afternoon. The creeping high value of the borders continues to draw the eye inwards towards the light centre, where the spider is clearly framed by an orb of low-value that heavily contrasts with it’s darkened and detailed form. Focalizers play a major role here with the gazes of the animals clearly orbiting towards the spider from all directions.

IMAGE TWO: ‘Oil Painting’


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  • Artist: Edgar Hunt
  • Title: ‘A Farmyard Scene with Goats Chickens Doves Farm Animals’ 
  • Year of creation: 1955
  • Media: Oil Painting
  • Genre: Artwork


The above oil painting titled ‘A Farmyard Scene with Goats Chickens Doves Farm Animals’ (1955) by Edgar Hunt features a medley group of farmyard animals gathered on the ground. The animals are spatially organised in intervals to create depth, and connected via a series of jagged focalizes leading towards the bottom of the page and the bowl at the bottom.

The harmonious hues, high saturation and low value of the painting lessens a photorealistic conclusion ultimately contributing to the ‘idealised’ effect of the piece. The natural lighting is used to highlight the body of certain animals and achieve atmospheric perspective. Interestingly, the perspective of this work angles the animals as inferior, by allocating all eye levels of the characters below that of the horizon line and subsequently the viewer.


The two compositions create drastically different effects; particularly through the use of colour, perspective and focalizers. The vibrant hues of Charlotte’s web clearly cater to a younger audience than the toned down neutral hues of Hunt’s oil painting. The purpose of the poster is to quickly attract whereas the the oil painting serves to artistically engage. This temporal dissonance is best exemplified by the focalizers in the works: with the first using a simplistic central focal point and the second creating a complex diagonal path for the eye. The perspective of the poster is equalling and humanised, compared to the superiority over the farmyard animals created by the lowered focal point in the painting.