Exercise 2.2 – Image and text (P.55)

Cut out some pictures from a newspaper and write your own captions.

• How do the words you put next to the image contextualise/re-contextualise it?

• How many meanings can you give to the same picture?

Try the same exercise for both anchoring and relaying.

© Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images
Observer, Sunday 13th January 2019

In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture

This is the original headline from the article which the picture accompanied. Elsewhere in the paper there was a report of the first decline in car sales in China for 20 years. With this in mind I thought the of changing the headline to ‘Upsurge in cycle usage leads to decline in Chinese car sales’

Thinking about the original text and my suggestion they are both used in an anchoring context, I think this is especially the case in the original headline as the image does not obviously convey a message that relates to religious oppression.

The above picture and caption and are from the Observer edition on the 3rd February 2019 and refers to the protests against the premiership of president Nicolas Maduro. The text anchors the picture and signifies that the crowd is protesting against the president.

An alternative caption could have been ‘Protestors flood streets of Caracas in support of President Maduro’. In this instance the meaning of the image would have been completely reversed and it goes to show how the context of the image is dependent on the accompanying text. Another caption could be ‘Venezuelans celebrate World Cup triumph’ which would completely change the context and the meaning.

The two things that struck me when doing this exercise was how text that accompanies an image can dramatically change the meaning for the viewer. I had previously been reluctant to add text to my images, my thinking being that the images should be able to convey their meaning to the viewer by themselves. I think when moving from taking pictures of family or holiday snaps to taking images that are part of a narrative series it is important to give viewer contextual information to help them understand the narrative. The other point that struck me was that most of images used in newspapers were not very engaging and that accompanying text was necessary to provide context as the images themselves were often very generic and by themselves did not communicate much about the stories to the reader,


The Guardian. 2019. Maduro’s fate in the balance as protesters flood streets of Caracas | World news | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/02/protesters-flood-streets-but-maduro-holds-on-in-venezuela. [Accessed 03 February 2019].

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