Judging Imagery

juding imagery pic 1


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.


Photo Dec 02, 00 39 09


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.




3 thoughts on “Judging Imagery

  1. Reading your blogpost, I was struck but how right you are. I am always judging pictures, and there have been too many times where I look at a picture and see something and ask a friend what they think and its something completely different and then we’ll read a description by the artist, and we’re both “wrong.” But what I liked so much about your post is that you point out that just because people find different meanings in the same thing, does not mean anyone meaning is wrong; just different. I like to think I have a pretty good grasp on understanding art, but then again, I think everyone does, and in their own way.


  2. Yes we are all judging photos and creating our own meaning of them. If the photo essays did not have an introduction, we would look at the pictures and create our own meaning and interpret the pictures a different way then the artist had originally attended. I did not do my draft and someone commented on my photos, “I do not get the point of the pictures because there is no introduction”. In this case the viewer was unable to create a meaning, needing additional support.


  3. I find it interesting that just tonight I was out with a group of friends and we were talking about this exactly. One of my friends said that now that she is pregnant many people request her on social media. One of my other friends mentioned that she would too just to see the cute pictures of the pregnancy and the baby one he is born. I found it insulting that someone would stoop to that level to become “friends” with someone simply based on this. However, it makes you think about what the pictures we post on social media do for not only us, but others on the other side of the screen. How do they interpret the images we are sending out. In my friend’s case, do they think she will be a good mother? Or do they stereotype her as being another young mom just based on her photos?
    But in reality, how much do you really know about someone when your only looking through a lens?


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