Research point – The Rhetoric of the Image

Our course notes ask us to read Rhetoric of the image and write some reflection notes in our learning log.  

  • How does Barthes define anchorage and relay?
  • What is the difference between them?
  • Can you come up with examples of each?
  • How might this help your own creative approaches to working with text and image?

I wrote a reflection of the Rhetoric of the image in the context and narrative module and it can be found here.  For me, Barthes is a very interesting but complex read his writing requires concentration and of course the use of a dictionary.  Barthes investigates the semiology of images and if analogically representation produces a true system of signs and not merrily simple agglutinations of symbols.  According to Barthes, the image is a re-presentation, which is to say ultimately resurrection, and, as we know, the intelligible is reputed antipathetic to lived experience and therefore the image is weak in respect of meaning. (Barthes, p.32). Barthes essay ‘The Rhetoric of the image’  is an analysis of a spaghetti advertisement where he discusses the function of the linguistic message with regard to the iconic message in relation to anchorage and relay.  Images have many different meanings or as Barthes writes ‘Polysemous meanings’ the way image meanings are conveyed to the viewer depends on signifiers and signifieds.  The understanding of images is influenced by what the viewer knows their cultural knowledge.  The viewer may understand some but they may choose to ignore the rest. Anchorage and relay refer to the way text can be used in an image to give meaning.  According to Barthes anchorage is a control, bearing responsibility – in the face of the projective power of pictures – for the use of the message. The relay is less common as far as the fixed image is concerned. Here the text and image stand in a complementary relationship.  Anchorage, therefore, occurs when text is used to focus on the meaning of the image this type of text can be mainly found in advertising or press photography.  The viewer is directed to the meaning of the image by the text and therefore it does not leave the image open to interpretation whereas when using text as relay there is more of an open relationship between image and text allowing the image to be open to interpretation by the viewer.  This type of text can be found in comic strips, cartoons and films.  The meaning of images is influenced by messages.  The Linguistic message supports the image by means of the caption, this message can either be anchorage or relay depending on the text.  When the linguistic message is put aside we are just left with an image. Barthes introduces two concepts the denoted message which according to Barthes is the analogue itself. The denoted message is a symbolic sign of the image and therefore indicates meaning to the image. The connoted message is the literal part of the image this suggests meaning to the viewer but it’s open to interpretation to a certain extent. There is a number of ways that text can be used in relation to an image. The directional title is used as a means to explain an image to the viewer. The orientation title places an image in a certain genre making both of these titles a good example anchorage. Complimentary titles is a good example of Relay because it is used to complement the image and leave the interpretation up to the viewer.

here are some examples of how text can be used as an anchor or relay –

This image is an example of anchorage it’s an advertisement showing a tomato sauce bottle with the text ‘no other ketchup tastes like Heinz!’ Anchorage is happening here because the advert is using the caption to fix meaning to the image.  In smaller print, we have another caption reading ‘Heinz is the best selling ketchup in the world’ By using this text we are provided with insight, the text is narrowing the viewers perspective of the image by providing a specific idea of the image to the viewer.  The advert wants the viewer to think that this is the best ketchup they can buy and that no other ketchup tastes better than this specific brand.  As my second example, I have decided to use two of my own photographs.

Just another boat

The title of the image ‘just another boat’ is an example of a complimentary title because it is standing in a complementary relationship with one another. The caption gives us information but it does not give meaning to the image leaving the image open to the viewer’s interpretation and therefore it is a good example of a relay.

Man fishing at the Blue Lagoon Latchi, Cyprus

This image is an example of Anchorage, the caption of the image is directional because it is telling us where the place is and what the man is doing not leaving it open for the viewer’s interpretation.

Language clearly has a function of elucidation, but this elucidation is selective, a metalanguage applied not to the totality of the iconic message but only to certain of its signs. (Barthes, p.40)

how does this help my own creative approaches to working with text and image?

Anchorage and relay play an important part in the interpretation of the image. I find myself thinking about captions ahead of the photographic process but instead of just thinking about the caption I need to also think about the image and how I want the image to be interpreted by the viewer. What titles will work with the image should I use the directional title and give the information to the viewer or should the title compliment the image and leave the image open to interpretation.

Reference –

Barthes, Roland (1977). The rhetoric of the Image in Image, music, text. London: Fontana Press

Exercise 4.3

For this exercise, we need to create a storyboard where the image does not depend on the text and the text adds something new to the narrative.  The exercise is a light-hearted look at the role of image and text.   Aim for it to be around 10 frames long.  Draw the picture storyboard first and then add the text.  Note how the story affected when the text is added.

Storyboard without Captions –
Storyboard with Captions

The storyboard titled ‘daddy I want a horse’ is influenced by my daughters love for riding. I found the exercise challenging not only did I struggle to keep the drawing of the girl consistent throughout the frames I could not help but think about what text I was going to add.

Exercise 4.1

Our course notes ask us to look at OCA tutors Dawn Woolley’s blog on Link 10 called ‘looking at advertisements’  we need to read one of Dawn’s articles and write a blog post in response I have decided to write about ‘looking at adverts 16’ 

Dawn decided to use this blog post to talk about her paper for the ‘photography matters’ conference.  The article discusses how culture affects identity in advanced capitalist societies, referring to the inclusion of the ‘selfie’ in advertising.

She starts her blog post with an advert by L’Oreal ‘Infallible Sculpt’ this advert can be seen here.

The L’Oréal advertisement is trying to sell a foundation to women the women in the advert stand in a football goal while footballs come flying towards her. Attached to herself is a number of selfie sticks with mobile phones.  The woman says ‘I’m not infallible but I’m always selfie-ready’.  The advertisement is trying to sell a new foundation to women by saying that if you buy this makeup product you will be picture perfect for the next 24 hours.  To be honest I did not get it at first why the football goal and what’s with the woman dodging the footballs.  So after much thought, this was my conclusion the bright yellow background is to catch the attention of the consumer, the women look picture perfect.  The footballs are there because even though she is dodging these balls she is still ready for a selfie because of the make up product she is using. So my understanding of what the ad is saying is no matter how bad the day you are going to have when you use this product you will still look good and ready for a selfie.  It’s interesting how a company uses this as a means to sell a product.  As Dawn states in the article cosmetic companies claim to produce effects equivalent to photoshop retouching tools but in reality, this is not the case the makeup does not make you selfie-ready it just claims too.  The consumer uses these tactics to sell the product. Woman watch the advert and feel to look as good as the model in the picture they need to buy the product.  I think adverts like these are aimed at certain people for me this is aimed at woman especially the younger generations as a woman you want to look and feel good and advertising companies uses this to there means by saying to people the only way you are going to look and feel as good as that model is if you buy this product. As dawn mentions in the article psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan talk about the experience of being looked at as an imbalance of power that is threatening.  I see only from one point, but in my existence, I am looked at from all sides’ (The Four Fundamental Concepts of psychoanalysis p.72).  People want to look good they want other people to see them as looking good this is what is important especially in the world we live in today the latest gadgets, good clothing and so on matters and consumers play on this.  The consumer wants people to believe that they need to buy this product if they want to look and feel as good as the model in the advert but when in reality the product is not going to make you any different, it’s not going to make you selfie-ready the advert only wants you to think this so that you buy the product.  I think that social media such as Facebook, Instagram, snapchat play a major role in the way people are the majority of society feels that in order to fit in they need to buy things, go on fancy holidays and so on its all about the likes in your social group and consumers play on this to sell there products.  As Dawn mentions in the article ‘the growing trend of the selfie reinforced the idea’ I agree with Dawn the world is obsessed with the selfie the right angle and the right background and then straight after taking the selfie it is posted to social media.  Advertising companies such as L’Oreal as well as dolce&gabbana as mentioned in the article uses the selfie as a means to sell their product by making us the consumer believe that if we have that make up, handbag, clothing we are going to create a perfect selfie for our social media pages. I think Social media and the mobile phone has taken over the world people are relying so much on today’s technology and the latest trends that it has become a big part of modern society.  


Research point – Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Her work is influenced by her earlier work as a graphic designer. ‘Barbara Kruger is fully aware of the politics of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’(M, Kamimura) Her work consists of bold declarative text often which includes pronouns with meaning overlaid on black and white imagery that challenges the cultural assumptions of human society. ‘Kruger uses her selected images and her own texts to destroy a certain order of representation, the task of work is political displacement of the traditional, dominant mode of representation’(M, Kamimura) Informed by feminism her work critiques the displacement of societies gender roles as well as the stereotypical portrayal of woman by consumerism. Kruger’s work has appeared on numerous public spaces and recently she has extended her practice by creating site-specific installations in galleries and museums. I would like to discuss the image you are not yourself.  What I find interesting about the work of Kruger is the way she uses her texts in her images.  Kruger takes texts and pastes it over an image to convey a message, but leaves it up to the viewer to interpret what this message is.  I found the image you are not yourself very interesting.  The image was created in 1981 it’s a black and white image of a woman examine herself in a mirror, the mirror has been shattered by what seems like a bullet. When I first looked at the image my first thought was that the woman appears to feel broken and when she looks in the mirror that is what she sees someone that is not herself.  According to psychoanalysis, there are two pleasures of looking: scopophilia and narcissistic identification scopophilia is a pleasure gained by looking and is a common desire among most people Freud argues that scopophilia can become voyeurism, this is where the viewer remains unseen and seeks to control what they see. Narcissistic identification is an opposing pleasure. (Pg 50; Bull)The mirror is a self-reflection of oneself by using the shattered mirror Kruger is illustrating how the expectations of society are forced upon a woman and when they have a moment of self-reflection the person they see is not their true self.  Another interesting part of the image is the way Kruger uses text the woman is surrounded with Bold text reading YOU ARE not YOURSELF what’s interesting is that the not is smaller and placed in the centre of the image So when you only read the bold letters you read YOU ARE YOURSELF this is used to show us that the way woman see themselves is the way society wants them to be.  Society wants a woman to think that they are responsible for their own positions in life and that their identity is constructed by society. The way one sees oneself will depend on how one perceives oneself. Our individual identities are constructed through our social interactions.  ‘Human identity (social,  sexual, political) is always a precarious structure, precisely an identification (process) that is subject to “others”(Bates, p.103) This image is a visual conception of Simone De Beauvoir’s conception of woman as a non-essential social construct ‘one is not born, but rather becomes a woman’ (Simone de Beauvoir). The image like others in Kruger’s oeuvre discusses aspects of critical theory concerning perception and the nature of the self.   Kruger’s work wants to show us that our social ideas are superficial.  The concept of Simulacra plays a large part in the artwork of Kruger. ‘Kruger strongly believed that the concept of self-identity in our culture has bee turned into simulacrum and therefore is irrelevant to life.’ (Rider)

Reference List –

The art history Archive (n.d) Barbara Kruger – Feminist Artist [online] The Art History Archive. Available at; – [Accessed 30 May 2018]

Rider, Shawn. “Barbara Kruger: Signs of Postmodernity.”WDP: Art and Design in a Friendly, Collaborative Environment. – [Available online]<;. [Accessed 30 May 2018]

Review: Barbara Kruger: Art of Representation [Available online] Masako Kamimura. Woman’s Art Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring-Summer, 1987), p. 40-43[Accessed 30 May 2018]

 D, Bates (2016) The key concepts of photography, Bloomsbury
Stephen Bull (2010) Photography, Routledge


Bibliography –

All Tomorrow’s Parties by [Available online][Accessed 30 May 2018]

Barbara Kruger [Available online][Accessed 30 May 2018]

The art history Archive (n.d) Barbara Kruger – Feminist Artist [online] The Art History Archive. Available at; – [Accessed 30 May 2018]

Rider, Shawn. “Barbara Kruger: Signs of Postmodernity.”WDP: Art and Design in a Friendly, Collaborative Environment. – [Available online]<;. [Accessed 30 May 2018]

Review: Barbara Kruger: Art of Representation [Available online] Masako Kamimura. Woman’s Art Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1 (Spring-Summer, 1987), p. 40-43[Accessed 30 May 2018]

 D, Bates (2016) The key concepts of photography, Bloomsbury
Stephen Bull (2010) Photography, Routledge