Something we do all the time is judge an image. No, I don’t mean judge a book by it’s cover type of thing. I mean literally judge an image. We all do it. We judge other people’s personal photos on them on social media, and also not of them specifically, but what they post.
Sean Hall says, “Semantic units are discrete items of communication that have actual and potential meanings.” So the image itself has actual meaning, but we analyze it and give it potential different meanings. That’s up to our judgment. We always ask subconsciously “what does this mean?” Hall also states, “With images, the issue is more difficult. A painting can have brush-marks, lines, tones, textures, colours and different parts, all of which can be identified as meaningful- of course the picture as a whole has meaning too.
In this image, the outlet could behind the woman could’ve just been there. Or the photographer wanted to it there for purpose. Some symbolic representation, but of what? It could represent power, since it is a power outlet, and the other person’s hand is covering this woman’s mouth, making her powerless. Or the outlet could represent an outlet, as in there’s always an outlet, or an escape. There’s always another route for you. The photographer had an idea in mind, perhaps, but in the end we judge the image and create the meaning.
Sean Hall states, “Literal meanings are important when we need to communicate something clearly and unambiguously. I agree with him. Literal meanings are important, but we are constantly giving things our own meanings.
Our interpretations of images is what we’re left with. At the end of the day, it’s not about what the photographer, writer or creator wanted to portray, its what we make of it. Sometimes, they want us to give it meaning, but other times they give it meaning. Sometimes the audience misses out on the meaning, or maybe they get the actual meaning, but give it more meanings.