Category Archives: Project 1 – Captions and Titles

Exercise 4.4

Image 1:

© Kasia Delgado/i

The back view of an attractive female nude (wearing a sun hat)

  • Take advantage of the sunny weather
  • “I looked out my window and saw this” by Disgusted from Fife
  • “Wow, what at sight” by Elated from Fife
  • An unusual warm day in Scotland

Staring over the edge of my garden I look for what I can see. I might have been in France. I might have been on a cruise. Instead, I am sunbathing here. What? You think I am a wanton woman? Are you jealous of my freedom? Do you envy my courage?

This comes from a piece in a newspaper advocating Naturism – ‘clothes seem pointless’.  I have taken the naturist viewpoint I have turned it into a reverie by the female. This could now be the first few sentences of a story – I am wondering what happens next rather than thinking nice idea – but its too cold in Scotland.

Photo and article from ‘I’ by Kasia Delgado (Delgado, 2020).

Image 2:

A picture of a pretty girl of nursery age (I am not going to copy this for obvious reasons), at a table, smiling and holding her hand up.

  • “Me, me, I want to go first”
  • “Can I tell my story?”
  • …… loves nursery and is so excited to go back
  • …… is loving lockdown and home teaching

This is my child. She is wonderful and excited and enjoys life. Love her so much even though she is hard work. She never stops moving or talking, even in her sleep. I wonder if there is something wrong. Maybe she has ADHD.

The picture comes from a piece in the Dunfermline Press on 07/05/20 that is saying that the council has not offered any nursery places for the child. The parent is complaining about the system and says nothing about the child (McRoberts, 2020).

Image 3:

© Gemma Ryder/Dunfermline Press

A large pile of burnt rubbish, including what looks like a washing machine.

  • Major fire at office – disaster strikes new firm
  • Cover-up by fire
  • Airplane hits local conurbation – multiple deaths.

What a disaster, the local storage unit for the Charity has been set on fire by vandals. All the goods are destroyed. Urgent appeal for new goods is now underway.

The picture comes from the Dunfermline Press  and  is talking about fly tipping in an article by Gemma Ryder (Ryder, 2020).


This is an interesting exercise, although basically a repeat of one done in Context and Narrative at Image and Text. I found myself being more imaginative with my response this time around. I wanted to write stories, an imagined response to the picture. Much of the news at present is about Covid-19 – so I tried to avoid those articles and look for others. It shows clearly how an image can be interpreted in a multiplicity of ways, positive and negative, fact and fiction. So, to make things clear – do you write an essay – or do you leave it all up to the viewers imagination, or give just enough clues to get them thinking? Open or closed?


Delgado, K. (2020) ‘Why more of us are daring to bare all under lockdown’ In: i 13/05/2020

McRoberts, A. (2020) ‘‘Unacceptable’: Mum not offered any nursery places for child’ In: Dunfermline Press 07/05/2020 p.20.

Ryder, G. (2020) ‘When will recycling centres reopen?’ In: Dunfermline Press 07/05/2020 p.35.

Exercise 4.3

The brief was to create. A storyboard of about 10 images without text then add the text and see how it changes.

I am not good at drawing; I can do pastels to some extent – but have never tried anything like this a before. I started by making my storyboard as suggested. A very simple story of a young girl waking up , looking out the window, following her heart then it changes , it becomes a nightmare, she fall and drowns, the parents are distraught, the is laid out on her bed for viewing.

Scan_20200526Scan_20200526 (2)

With text: changed to a dream, starts the same – but dives deliberately, swims and gets home. It was all a dream.

Scan_20200526 (3)Scan_20200526 (4)

A very simple addition of a few words turned a very basic nightmare into a sweet dream! I gave a blank set to my son and he instantly interpreted it as the disaster scenario and added words to confrim that. He said the clue that made him read it as a disaster was the cross on the wall.

Exercise 4.2

Brief: Choose a day that you can be out and about. Be conscious of how images and texts are presented to you in real life. Think about some specific examples.

 This was possibly a more limited and limiting experience than it was meant to be. Because of Covid there was only a small number of places that I could wander to, and much of the information was about this!

I start the day with the usual unwelcome pop-up to my tablet What Covid news have you missed overnight – I have put it in bold because that is how it hits you, nothing else is apparently important. A similar message comes several times because I keep forgetting to turn of news alerts from several different sources. My early morning reading is similarly contaminated. The pictures show either disasters or warnings with the occasional feel good story thrown in. On the particular day I went for a walk there was:

  • ‘PM quizzed over unexplained care home deaths’ – with an image of the PM in Westminster leaning forward looking (to my eye anyway) very aggressive.
  • Chancellor says UK facing a significant recession – set against an image (presumably stock) of a builder in a worksite. I am not sure how these link together – possibly look how great we were?


So, I went for a walk, this was limited but I was still surprised to see how much text was about in the environment. I suspect I usually simply ignore it. They could be divided into several categories

  • Instructions such as Please keep this gate CLOSED AT ALL TIMES. NO SMOKING ON SCHOOL GROUNDS – accompanied by the no smoking sign and the council logo. The typeface is bold. It is very clear that this is an absolute instruction, no choice given.  Sometimes this was coded as a request ‘PLEASE BE A RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNER’ – together with an attractive picture of one of the local peacocks.
  • Information – I walked though the park and there were a number of signs telling you what you could expect to see, with the layout of the area and particularly interesting thing to look out for, together with other signs telling you the history of the area, what happened in WWII, the links to Andrew Carnegie and Malcolm Canmore (an early King of Scotland).
  • Simple signs – HEAVY DUTY PLASTIC WASTE ONLY on a skip.
  • Warning signs – PC T.V. IN OPERATION – this one was linked with a slightly humorous drawing of a guard in a room making up signs to tell you not to feed the peacocks.
  • Memorial – names on park benches, sometimes with a short phrase such as Forever Loved.
  • Titles – I passed one for a pub/club that is called Life, careful examination the sign has people doing gymnastics on the letters. I assume the implication is that when you attend their club you will feel uplifted and fit – or maybe it is that you will be swinging from the ceiling?
  • Advertising – IT’S THE NATIONS FAVOURITE over a bacon roll, WRESTLING SHOWDOWN – on a tatty poster on a window. Neither of these attracted me at all – however I can imagine that they would attract plenty of other people. The colours are bright, the pictures eye catching. Also the simpler We are still open (M&S).
  • Mysterious – on the way home my eye was caught by the sheer number of steel access plate inlaid into the road – all of which had varying combinations of words, numbers and names.

Much of the text used was capital letters with very strong contrasts with the background. The more it was seen to be a command the ‘SHOUTIER’ the text. There were few pictures as such, several were accompanied by symbols such as ‘no smoking’. In practice most of the text (+images/signs) I saw gave little room for personal interpretation. They were informative and often directive. In most of them it is clear that the creator wanted to give you information or instructions. Their choice – not yours.

The only ones that gave me any room for a personal interpretation were

  • The sign on the cash machines – Free Cash Withdrawals – and I suspect this is just my sense of humour, not a deliberate ploy by the bank.
  • The sign for the British Heart Foundation – a typical heart shape (connoting love), with a trace of an ECG (connoting death)on a bright red (blood red) background – when I think about it is a very clever logo – just enough to make you aware and think “Oh. Maybe I am at risk too. Maybe I should donate”.
  • The memorial signs on the park benches which always make me want to imagine the lives of the people commemorated. Who were they? What were they like? Do their family visit the benches and sit there and remember.

Part 4 – Research Point 1

The research point is to look at the Barthes essay Rhetoric of the Image and reflect on looking at his definitions of anchorage and relay, thinking about examples of these and considering how you could use them in your own work.

I will start by admitting that I find Barthes a complex read. This may be partly because he wrote in French and I am reading translations. It may be because his background is in philosophy and semiotics. I find I always have to have a dictionary to hand. I looked at the essay as a whole as the parts on anchorage and relay can only be understood in context.

All quotes are from the Rhetoric of the image – initially published in 1964, republished in Image Music Text in 1977 and obtained here from The Photography Reader (2019).

In the Rhetoric of the Image Barthes starts by saying that many people, especially linguists feel that images are weak communicators in comparison with language but other think that it is ‘ineffably rich’.

Barthes then looks at levels of messages in photographs. The first linguistic – and actual words such as a caption or labels within the image. These can have both denotational and connotational meanings. He then describes a clearly coded iconic message- the details of the image and what it shows (in this case the makings of soup) – the perceptual message or the denoted image.  The third level he describes as a ‘message without a code’, a literal message that we understand because of our previous knowledge – the cultural message or the connoted, symbolic image.

He notes that linking of text and image is common. Does the image duplicate information in the words or does the text add ‘fresh information’ to a picture? He sees us (in 1964) as a civilisation of writing and speech rather than of images and notes that there is a linguistic message (length variable and irrelevant) with every image – title, caption, dialogue, accompanying article.

All images are polysemous (have multiple meanings). The reader chooses. The linguistic message is one way of fixing the message, resolving the (terror of) uncertainty. The text helps to identity the scene – what is it?

Anchorage – tells you what of all the possible denotive meanings is the one that you are supposed to understand – to focus not simply my gaze but also my understanding.  It limits what you see.  It directs you to the meaning that is desired (especially in advertising). Anchorage is a control, a selective explanation (elucidation). It acts to repress (cut down) the meaning of the image to that wished by the creator or society.

 Relay (less common than anchorage) is often seen in cartoons/comics. ‘The text and image stand in a complimentary relationship’. The unity of the message becomes important rather than the individual items. He describes the information gained by the text as more ‘costly’ as it need more formal learning to acquire and the information from the image as ‘lazier’ and ‘quick’ allowing a hurried reader to avoid the necessity of verbal descriptions. He also notes that either text or image will usually be dominant.

Barthes then goes on to talk about the denoted image. He says that although a photograph, ‘by virtue of its absolutely analogue nature’ – is a message without a code – but also that everybody automatically understands more then the liberal image because of our cultural knowledge. However, a photograph is different from a drawing as any drawing chooses what to show, as opposed to a photograph which (once the frame has been decided) shows everything. The photograph records, evoking not only being-there but also having-been-there. There is always the evidence of this is how it was. It is different from any other form of image making (a mutation of a way of passing on information).

The connoted (symbolic image) is complex because there are as many possible interpretations as there are readers. The interpretation depends on prior knowledge, a ‘body of attitudes’. The language of the image consisted both utterances emitted by the creator and the utterances received from the viewer. Therefore, they may/will include surprises. The whole set of connotations from the image Barthes calls a rhetoric.

 He ends by noting that the meaning (of an image) is torn internally between culture and nature – but the whole thing combines to tell a story.

In summary:

Barthes defines anchorage as the controlling words that direct the reader to what the creator wishes him/her to see. Relay in text is something that sits alongside the image and gives additional value, is complimentary. Anchorage directs you; relay suggests possibilities.


  1. In the book Our Forbidden Land by Faye Godwin (Godwin, 1990) she uses a combination of both. The images are accompanied by a simple text such as ‘Stubble Burning, east Kent’ which, by itself, would allow you to look at the image and think ‘Oh. It must be winter’ or ‘That makes a lot of smoke’ – but she then accompanies the image with a passage of information about the context which makes it clear that she wants you to read it as an obnoxious and dangerous process.
  2. In The Ballad of Sexual Dependency by Nan Goldin she uses simple factual titles such as ‘Christie and Sandy on the beach, Provincetown, Mass.1976’ which’ while grounding the image in reality, this happened, I was then then – allows you to make up your own story.
  3. In Tal Uf Tal Ab by Robert Frank there is even less information, the name of the person or a place. You are left with your own interpretation.
  4. In a copy of the magazine Breathe (picked at random off the floor) -the images (while often very attractive) are clearly secondary to the anchoring text, for instance, a long article entitled ‘Food for the soul’ (Yates, 2016) which is accompanied by luscious looking strawberries, cherries and raspberries. This is very similar in use to the advertisement Barthes describes in Image of the Rhetoric, although here you are being sold a lifestyle rather than a specific product.

How might this help me?

In much of the work I do I want the reader/viewer to develop their own ideas. To Think. To feel. To imagine. But, equally, I do want to give some direction – I take images of people with disabilities. I do not want the viewer to be negative. I want them to go into their world not look from outside with contempt. I think I need to consider the relay type text, maybe a simple caption, a single word – but with an essay (possibly too formal) at some point.

I am thinking about a piece of memory work – maybe the words need to be totally separate. Single words in a grid? Minimal size captions on the alternate page?


Frank, R. (2010) Tal Uf Tal Ab. Gottingen, Germany: Steidl.

Godwin, F. (1990) Our forbidden land. London: J. Cape.

Goldin, N. et al. (1986) The ballad of sexual dependency. New York, N.Y.: Aperture Foundation.

Wells, L. (2019) The photography reader: history and theory. Abingdon, Oxon; New York, Ny: Routledge.

Yates, J. (2016) ‘Food for the soul’ In: Breathe 2016 pp.74–75.

Exercise 4.1 – Looking at Adverts

The exercise asks us to look at the Dawn Woolley articles on the WEAREOCA website and either make a blog post or reply on the site. It was difficult to track down the posts as they are now 3 years old and Dawn has left OCA – however, persistence worked.

I looked at her last post on fashion and anti-aging products. In spite of this post being old these products are still very heavily advertised today, and therefore it is still relevant. The ads still suggest we can ‘stop time’. The ads she shows and Judith Williamson talks about use ‘science’ or more often pseudoscience to catch ones attention, to make you feel that what they are saying ‘must be right’ . Woolley and Williamson describe a ‘mythic’ element to this use of science and this magic is suggested to make you look, and therefore feel younger, more attractive and therefore increase your feeling of self-worth.

I had a quick look at the Body Shop website. The cream shown in Woolley’s post is still available. It is described as:

  • Skin feels smoother, more supple, and bouncier
  • ……… visibly more youthful looking skin
  • Dermatological tested – this again implies science and safety – although without any details of what the testing involved, or who did it – presumably the Body Shop themselves
  • Non-comedogenic – I had to look this up – it means the tendency to cause blackheads – again a very ‘sciency’ term

I noted the repetitive nature of the information – and the use of ‘good sounding’ plant names (actually inaccurate – they say 3, then list 4).

I am in the age group that this is aimed at, I could certainly do with extra youthful bounce! They clearly know who they are trying to attract, and, given their sales, are successful at doing so. Has looking at the ad in detail put me off buying the product? Unfortunately, possibly not.

I took the opportunity to look at Woolley’s website where she describes her artwork as ‘a feminist critique of consumer culture’. She now works partly in still life as a blogger had assumed she was male and completely misinterpreted one of her series. I suspect that would give any female (whether feminist or not) pause for thought, and then screaming outrage, although, of course, in the past, often the only way to get your work looked at was to pretend to be male. I would have been interested to read her chapter in ‘Bodies in Flux’ – but unfortunately it is not available via the UCA library. One of her recent series – Consumed: stilled lives again looks at the impact that advertisements have on our lives, and the concerning fact that as selfies act as adverts so adverts become more reliant on human-like characteristics to be attractive/effective.

Reference list:

Drops Of YouthTM Youth Cream (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 11 May 2020)

Woolley, D. (2017) Looking at adverts: 17 | The Open College of the Arts. At: (Accessed on 11 May 2020)

Woolley, D. (s.d.) Dawn Woolley – HOME. At: (Accessed on 11 May 2020)