Images: 2 images of social interactions with 1 High Modality and 1 Low Modality.
Image 1 (Low Modality): Lara Zankoul
A man and a woman sit facing one another in wooden chairs within a small, compact room filled to their neckline with water. Each of the people are wearing head masks – the man a horse and the woman a rabbit. The woman with the rabbit mask is holding a teacup and is slightly turned to face the camera.
Social Semiotic Analysis:
Using visual social semiotic analysis, the representational, interactive and compositional meanings can be derived from this image.
In terms of representational interpretation, this image is narrative and is telling a brief story of an interactive scene between the man and woman. This is a transactive image as there is a notion of an action being played out – i.e the socialising of the two people. The man with the horse head is sitting facing the girl with the rabbit head, with her chair facing back towards his. This is an indicator of socialising and action as it is implied that these actors were socialising with one another by the way their chairs are facing.
Although the actors heads are not directly facing one another, you are still able to see where they are looking to derive the interactive meaning of the image.
The horse head is angled slightly to face off screen with the rabbit head directly facing the audience – each which are demanding attention with direct eye contact. Each of these expressions are accompanied by very purposeful actions and poses. The sterile, forced and compositional body language of each of the models creates a dramatic, surreal and fantasy like effect (bordering on really creepy) – aiding to decrease the realism of the image. As the actors are wearing expressionless masks, this also adds to the surreal effect of the image, making it seem unnatural.
The image is shot at a medium distance which is typically used for social interactions as it displays both the expressions and body language of the models. The image is viewed on the same eye-level as the models, increasing the intimacy of the shot. This effect makes it feel as if the viewer is in the room with them and the rabbit has simply turned their head to view you as a part of the conversation.
There is a mixture of oblique and front on angles within this image, changing the level of engagement between models. As the horse is sitting oblique he is less engaged in the photograph than the rabbit who is facing front on and demanding all of the engagement. The models are positioned in the centre of the image, ensuring they are the focal point.
In terms of compositional semiotic interpretation, the framing of the image has a powerful effect on how it is perceived. As the models are in an extremely compact, small room by themselves all of the attention is on themselves. The room is also highly unconventional as it is almost filled with water – this effect again adds to the surrealism of the image.
In all, the image is attempting to distort the viewers perception of social interactions by displaying a very unnatural, forced and unrealistic image. The combination of interactive and compositional semiotic effects as well as colour and lighting creates a low modality, fantasy like image. This questions the norms of social interactions and ultimately makes the viewer feel slightly uncomfortable and violated due to the intensity of the viewer demand on the bunny.
Image 2 (High Modality): Kristina Musumeci
Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tins-Photography/165054740348442?ref=br_tf
Two men sit side by side against a brick wall laughing and smiling as they converse.
This image represents a non-transactive narrative. It is clear that the two men are socalising and interacting based on their proximity to one another, lack of other models as well as the visible reactive expressions on their face. It is non-transactive because there is nothing being exchanged between the models and their eye’s are looking off screen. There is action and reaction implied from the models expressions – laughter. This indicates that previous to this shot there was social interaction for them to display these emotions – capturing a shot in a narrative.
The image is interactive through the body language and facial expressions. As there is no direct eye contact with the viewer, there is a different kind of detached interactivity between model and viewer called an ‘offer’. This can be seen as ‘aspirational’ – making the viewer feel as if it is aspirational to be happy, socialising and smiling like that is displayed in this image. Each of the models are looking up into the distance, again increasing the feeling of aspiration towards their social situation.
The framing of these images can be considered long as both subjects are sitting and are seen full bodied. Although the image shows their full body, they are still quite close to the image and is personable. The framing of the image makes it feel as if the user is a part of the image themselves on a personable level – they can image themselves sitting right there with them. This is also due to the point of view of the image. As it is on eye-level with the viewer, it shows equality and is more personable for the viewer. Horizontally, the models are evenly in the centre of the image, again increasing engagement.
This image is a very realistic and has a high modality. There is minimal editing or colour, light and additional effects to alter the image to become surreal – it looks like these two could be sitting anywhere.
With all of these semiotic meanings into consideration, this is a very warming, natural and realistic image. The use of expression, eye contact and frontal framing making the image very inviting and is intended to display friendship and give a warm feeling to the viewer.
Comparison of images:
These images have multiple similarities in their composition but the final product are stark differences of realism and surrealism. In order to change from a realistic image, the first image uses many techniques to make the image fantasy like. This is particularly the unnatural, forced positions that the models are sitting in as well as the elements of the image itself – including the room size, costumes and the water.
The expressions and the engagement of the models in each of the images is where the main difference in modality lays. The first image is very confronting with direct eye contact where as the second image is inviting with ‘offered’ contact instead. Without this harshness, there is more of a warm inviting sense instead of the user being almost frightened by the awkward and creepy positions and stares of the models.
Relation to my own work:
The first image in particular is more relatable to my own style of work. In my photography (as I have already mentioned multiple times – sorry) I enjoy experimenting. As I have desires to delve into fashion blogging with my own experimental style, I have been investigating and undressing fantasy photographers images and their techniques. The front on, direct eye contact demands attention and the bodily expressions also add to this surrealism. I believe I will be taking hints such as social movement and interactions into considerations when experimenting with photography.
Gillian Rose., (2001). Chapter 4: Semiology. In Gillian Rose., Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials, (pp.69 – 99)