CTS: The Reading of an Image


A picture can mean a lot of things to all of us and yet sometimes we see a few snaps and think: so, what? In one of our lectures we discovered how to explore in greater depth what is the artist trying to say and how it is understood by the wider public.


Spaghetti and pizza. We automatically associate these objects with Italy, the Roman holiday, and think about the time spent with friends and family. We suddenly remember the thoughts and smell the different scents which come from there. In class, we discussed how an image becomes iconic – recognised by various cultures whilst delivering a message. Everybody reads an image differently’ you can either describe what you see (connotation is the literal meaning) or create stories which dig deeper into the meaning (denotation shows understanding of a more abstract image). Either way, an image has many meanings which is called polysemic.

Looking at an image allows us to interpret its meaning in a personal way. It evokes different memories, as well as accelerates thinking about the artist’s reason for creating the artwork. Was it created out of pleasure, pressure or pity? What were the circumstances and the consequences of the image once it was presented to the public? Does a piece of art become memorable once it is created or once it is discussed by the audience?

The interpretation of an image is equally important as its aesthetics. Is it black and white, are some details highlighted in colour, what is the focus of an image, what was it inspired by? Stereotypes – a never-ending source of inspiration for many artists. Looking at the Banky’s Flower Thrower, a rioter throwing a bouquet, or the Saudek’s New born baby in man’s arms, we can see the representation of contradictions. The former, where an expectedly violent subject throws a delicate object, could be symbol of love contradicting the purpose of a riot. The letter points out the importance of a family/ sense of belonging by breaking down the traditional mother-child model.

Credit: Banksy (2003), Flower Thrower                     Credit: Saudek, J. (1966), New born baby…


In the class, we discussed other cultural images, such as the La Dolce Vita movie, the 1974 Carnation Revolution, and the queues in Singaporean after their leader passes away. All images were very emotional, also because everyone could associate them with their own story.

Images are full of contradictions; they can be a mirror to our souls or restrict us from seeing anything. We can assume the main features, but the truth is that no one will ever fully understand an image. It is entirely up to us how we read it, whether we take somebody’s interpretation for granted or decide to create or own. A good picture is an unfinished story, internationally understood and yet mysterious.




Unreferenced: Dittrichova, G. (2016) Sunset. Photos.

Referenced: Banksy, (2003). Flower Thrower. Available at: http://www.stencilrevolution.com/banksy-art-prints/rage-the-flower-thrower/ [Accessed 28/10/2016]

Saudek, J. (1966) New born baby in man’s arms, Available at:  http://www.artnet.com/artists/jan-saudek/new-born-baby-in-mans-arms-ZzL_VVObUJ4ANMyOEwhXWw2 [Accessed 28/10/2016]

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