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Just as grammars of language grammars of language grammars

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Kress Van Leewen_Reading ImagesJust as grammars of language grammars of language grammars of language grammars of language describe how
words combine in clauses, sentences and texts,
so visual ‘grammar’visual ‘grammar’visual ‘grammar’visual ‘grammar’ will describe the way in
which depicted elements – people, places and
things – combine in visual ‘statements’ of greater
or lesser complexity and extension.or lesser complexity and extension.
Grammatical forms are seen as resources for
encoding interpretations of experience and
forms of social (inter)action.
‘A political clash has led to death and injury’,
while the Tanzanian Daily News wrote, while the Tanzanian Daily News wrote, ‘Rhodesia’s white suprematist police . . .
opened fire and killed thirteen unarmed Africans.’
The same is true for the ‘grammar of visual design’. Think of an example!
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Boris Nemtsov’s funeral (Il Fatto Quotidiano) 5
The visual, like all semiotic modesvisual, like all semiotic modesvisual, like all semiotic modesvisual, like all semiotic modes, has to serve several
representational and communicational requirements.
We have adopted the theoretical notion of ‘metafunctionmetafunctionmetafunctionmetafunction’
from the work of Michael Halliday for this purpose. The from the work of Michael Halliday for this purpose. The
three metafunctions which he posits are the ideationalideationalideationalideational, the
interpersonalinterpersonalinterpersonalinterpersonal and the textualtextualtextualtextual.
not specific to speech or writing.
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humans.
In other words, it has to be able to represent
objects and their relations in the world and the objects and their relations in the world and the
way they are perceived by humans
In visual communication, colour, for example, can
represent specific people (colours of uniform),
places (flags for nations), things (brand colour).
The colour blue might be used on a map to
represent the idea of ocean.
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This metafunction can be represented by font, too.
In the X-Man movie poster, the typeface of the ‘X’ is
used to illustrate the idea of strength, power and used to illustrate the idea of strength, power and
solidness. It is bold, heavy, made of metal.
Metaphorical association: thickness is ‘stronger’
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represent) is communicated visually.
Agency is communicated symbolically
actually do in the world
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Visual communication also has resources for
constituting and maintaining another kind of
interaction, the interaction between the producer and the interaction between the producer and the interaction between the producer and the interaction between the producer and
the viewer of the imagethe viewer of the imagethe viewer of the imagethe viewer of the image.
Another way of saying this is that images (and other
kinds of visual) involve two kinds of participants,
represented participants represented participants represented participants represented participants (the people, the places and
things depicted in images) and interactive participants interactive participants interactive participants interactive participants
(the people who communicate with each other through
images, the producers and viewers of images).
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(1)(1)(1)(1) relations between represented participants;
(2)(2)(2)(2) relations between interactive and represented participants
(the interactive participants’ attitudes towards the represented
participants);
interactive participants do to or for each other through
images).
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Positioning/aligning the viewer in relation
to people inside the image
GazeGazeGazeGaze:::: to what extent we are encouraged
to engage with the participants
Angle Angle Angle Angle ofofofof interactioninteractioninteractioninteraction: this can create power
relationships and also involvment
suggesting intimacy or remoteness
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GazeGazeGazeGaze
In pictures, as in real life, the depicted people can look at the
viewer so that there is the symbolic ‘contact’, ‘interaction’ viewer so that there is the symbolic ‘contact’, ‘interaction’
(pleading, seductive, arrogant, etc.) between the viewer and the
people depicted . This produces an imageimageimageimage actactactact, a demanddemanddemanddemand imageimageimageimage.
People (or objects) can also be depicted as as not looking at the
viewer, there is no interection, and the people (objects) in the
picture are looked at, as a kind of exhibit. This produces an offerofferofferoffer
imageimageimageimage.
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Our involvement in a scene can also be changed through
viewing positions, through the angle of interaction around the
horizontalhorizontalhorizontalhorizontal plane (frontal, oblique, side on, back).
There is also the verticalverticalverticalvertical angle. The viewer can either look
down on or look up to people to various degrees
ObliqueObliqueObliqueOblique angles are used less frequently in news photography
but are often found in cartoons and movies and provide an
unsettling effects and suggest tension
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DistanceDistanceDistanceDistance
relationsrelationsrelationsrelations. This has the associations of physical proximityrelationsrelationsrelationsrelations. This has the associations of physical proximity
in real life. In pictures, distance translates as sizesizesizesize ofofofof frame frame frame frame
(close shot, medium shot, long shot).
Close-ups create a sense of intimacyintimacyintimacyintimacy with those
represented. Increased distance creates anonimityanonimityanonimityanonimity.
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interactioninteractioninteractioninteraction among participants, textualtextualtextualtextual
metafunctionmetafunctionmetafunctionmetafunction looks at compositioncompositioncompositioncomposition....
This third element refers to the composition of composition of composition of composition of
the wholethe wholethe wholethe whole, the way in which the
representational and interactive elements are
made to relate to each other, the way they are
integrated into a meaningful meaningful meaningful meaningful wholewholewholewhole.
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interactive meanings of the image to each other through
three interrelated systemsthree interrelated systemsthree interrelated systemsthree interrelated systems:
(1) Information valueInformation valueInformation valueInformation value. The placement of elements (participants and syntagms
that relate them to each other and to the viewer) endows them with the
specific informational values attached to the various ‘zones’ of the image: left left left left
and rightand rightand rightand right, top and bottomtop and bottomtop and bottomtop and bottom, centrecentrecentrecentre and and and and marginmarginmarginmargin.
(2) SalienceSalienceSalienceSalience. The elements (participants as well as objects, facts/situations) are
made to attract the viewer’s attention to attract the viewer’s attention to attract the viewer’s attention to attract the viewer’s attention to different degrees, as realized by such
factors as placement in the foregroundforegroundforegroundforeground or backgroundor backgroundor backgroundor background, relative sizesizesizesize, contrasts contrasts contrasts contrasts
in tonal value in tonal value in tonal value in tonal value (or colourcolourcolourcolour), differences in sharpnesssharpnesssharpnesssharpness, etc.
(3) Framing) Framing) Framing) Framing. The presence or absence of framing devices presence or absence of framing devices presence or absence of framing devices presence or absence of framing devices (realized by elements
which create dividing lines, or by actual frame lines) disconnects or connects
elements of the image, signifying that they belong or do not belong together
in some sense
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Left/Right
of importance
coherently OverlapOverlapOverlapOverlap: this is where elements are not constrained by frames and OverlapOverlapOverlapOverlap: this is where elements are not constrained by frames and
spaces. Their meaning can also bleed into other spaces
RepetitionRepetitionRepetitionRepetition: colour, posture, size, etc. can be re-used to create links
and relations between elements
difference
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