Visual culture can be a complicated language but here are a few visual culture examples to get fired up about.
What would the first seeing starfish have to say about the suddenly visible ocean? How would a still-bloody newborn explain the Mona Lisa compared to an adult who has seen a lifetime of images? These are important questions because, both the starfish and the newborn lack something most do not. Someone getting their sight for the first time seeing an image before any other image might describe it completely objectively. Starfish, babies, and the blind don’t read the news. Some educated adults might not even recognize what the photo is of. That is because to understand an image thoroughly, the viewer must understand visual culture examples. They must understand the image’s place within it. This is called context. It helps too if the viewer is aware of its hegemonic power, cultural hybridity, and binary oppositions in the world. The context of an image explains the picture through hegemony, hybridity, and binary opposition.
Consider the following image as an example of how cultural juxtaposition, intended meaning, cultural hybridity, and opposition can change the meaning of pictures. The image comes from an article on DailyMail.com discussing how Trump’s new wall to divide the U.S. and Mexico will graciously be built with solar panels making it less of a carbon footprint. But the photographer of this image clearly didn’t have environmental concerns, they had political concerns. The picture is divided vertically in two. On the left are patches of brown. On the right are many compacted squares with long bands of dotted black and swatches of green. This, though, is how a starfish would see it. In a cultural context, it is understood that the left is the poor arid landscape of Mexico’s border. On the right, one sees the bustling and lush landscape of San Diego’s border according to the clues visual culture examples provide. The artist features the visual split perfectly centered down the image. And the way the image is cropped from the top forces the viewer to focus, not on the sunny weather, but on the differences in the landscape both physical and political.
Context is crucial to know the importance of an image. Aliens from far away worlds with different ways of life and activities and with different ways of talking, looking, and acting cannot understand Earthly images. How an image relates to society and visual culture examples cannot be understood without the knowledge of that culture. Those of one culture cannot understand images from another. Context is what turns pixels and dabs of pai nt into controversies and revolutions. Images with the right context can be very political. Simple elements like color, line, shape, and even composition, cropping, and perspective can instigate entire wars because of their context in the world. Thanks to context, images become peepholes into the hallways of many cultures. Context is a juxtaposition between an image and a peoples’ way of life and their daily activities. Any image is like a peephole, but what it shows the viewer is society and visual culture examples. In this image, onlookers can use history as a frame of reference and tool for digging deeper. Historically the wall between the United States and Mexico has been a topic of fiery debate. Some believe it is a blockade of people’s rights and others say it is the drain that keeps terrorists out of the U.S. In this way history adds another layer of ideals and emotions to the image. Both history and politics can be like a slightly translucent window covering over that peephole to visual culture examples. People aware of current events can’t help but see new headlines of Donald Trump’s zeal to build a bigger, better, wall, complete even with shiny new solar panels. Media, news, politics, and current events have added another layer for onlookers to have to look through to this image and consider. History and politics are just a few things that contextualize this image with the world and the image’s adjacent culture, making its message clearer.
The hegemony of this image is also important in drawing conclusions about the picture. Considering dominant hegemony is the producer’s intended meaning of the work influenced usually by the episteme of the time and oppositional hegemony is the opposite meaning of the work influenced by peoples’ alternative beliefs, then there are multiple ways to read this image. Again, different eyes see different things. The focus of this image for a protester might be the stark contrast between the two landscape, while the focus for an avid Trump supporter might be the glorious and glistening wall that divides the two. These people see the same image with the same biological methods of seeing, but because they are influenced by a hegemonic culture they interpret it in different ways. But who knows?! Maybe there were celebratory balloons in the sky that day. This illustrates the negotiated hegemony of an image. Perhaps the artist had to crop out the aftermath of a celebration honoring the destruction of the wall to reinforce the artist’s idea motivating this image. Perhaps the snapshot was taken moments before a bulldozer plowed through the wall. Perhaps it doesn’t show, off in the distance, a new peace treaty being signed. The point is, however, that this can all influence the understanding of an image. Hegemony in visual culture examples and individuals influence the way people decipher images.
Hybridity is full of helpful clues for the viewer of this image as well. Hybridity is like the perfect cocktail with not too much bourbon and not to much ginger. Hybridity is the mixing of visual culture examples to the point where neither can be distinguished. In this case, one ingredient is Mexico’s visual culture examples where the other might be the United Statesvisualal culture examples; neither can be identified. Obviously, there is hybridity between the two countries like in television or just the way people dress, but it is the lack of hybridity visible in this image that is more powerful. This fast-paced environment on the right wants to spill over the wall and onto the left. The trees and city life seem to fill every vacant space of the canvas right up until it hits the invisible and political line. But none of the hybridity between the two countries is visible. In fact, there is no mixing. There is only a distinct divergence. Nonetheless, it is hybridity that aids in the understanding of this image.
Binary opposition in the photo gives the viewer clues to its meaning. Images can reference black (or in this case brown), white, the rich, the poor, women, men, the young, and the old. Binary opposition is two things that are similar but means completely different things. One defines the other and one cannot exist without the other. The young define the old and the old define the young. Whites become irrelevant without Blacks. The hustling and bustling urban life of dollar signs and progressive daily life are opposite a rural life of poverty and toil. Viewers understand the first to be the right side of this image and the latter to be the left. Peoples’ understanding of binary opposition recalls high rises and the American Dream on the right and underpaid immigrants and laborious farming on the left. The noble and the savage are in opposition. Binary opposition within visual culture examples created “the good” and “the evil.” Therefore it encourages the viewer to think of power when analyzing the two sides of this image. On the right is the power of the U.S. and on the left are the slaves to it. This reinforces the appearance of America as an imperial force and Mexicans as nothing more than worthless savages under their rule. Elements like binary opposition all evoke these cultural references in the viewer and help the viewer understand hidden messages.
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