Roland Barthes “Rhetoric of the Image” essay from Image – Music – Text, Translated by Stephen Heath. Hill and Wang, 1977. (excerpt)

Question & Prompts

  • How do images hold and convey meaning?
  • How do we understand them?
  • What are they trying to say?
  • How do they persuade and influence us?

When reading the essay from Rolan Barthes, the idea I am getting overall is how images have a way of depicting what other people can take from it or see.  Images are able to hold and convey so much meaning by how people, objects, and colors are used. Whoever is making an image is always trying to convey some feeling or emotion, no matter what it is. The viewers will try to understand anything out of it in order to try to relate or see a relation with the image.

For example, this poster shows how plastic bottles lead to pollution. The image is white in the background while the smoke coming out of the bottle is really dark that it looks like smoke coming out of factories. The image is all in black and white with barely any color other than the red text that says “Environmental impact”. They are trying to say how bad the environment is becoming and this may help persuade people who look at it. The image is really centered and has a dark theme that’s very easy to understand by a lot of people without having to read any of the text in it.