The Power of an Image: Defining Meaning through Society

“ The power of the image derives not only from its status as photographic evidence of this exact moment in time but also from its powerful evocation of the personal and political struggles of the era that encompasses this moment. The photograph thus has the capacity both to present evidence and to evoke a magical or mythical quality that moves us beyond specific empirical truths.”– Images, Power, and Politics

 It is amazing to me the amount of thought that can go into taking a photograph and then interpreting a photograph. Todays’ modern world has expanded a single photo into three hour long movies that are all conveying certain messages. In my living room at home, we have the portraits of my great-great grandmother’s family, just like the “carte de visite” of the European families in our reading. I can honestly say that I have never given those photos a second glance. But, this reading is causing me to take some steps backwards and reexamine what makes a photograph so significant?    

The author discussed the theory by Roland Barthes. He said ,”the myth is the hidden set of rules and conventions through which meaning, which are specific to certain groups, are made to seem universal and given for a whole society. ” The most fascinating concept is how the connotations are becoming the denotations in society. I had never addressed this ideology in our consumer culture or our world of entertainment. So I decided to take a look… 

I found two images that combine not only the use of connotative meaning but also the use of an iconic person for advertisers gain….The advertisements of Jennifer Lopez for Venus products in the United States and in Latin America show the different iconic roles she plays for each society. 

The American advertisement conveys the connotative meaning that if you shave your legs with this product, you can be a goddess or a diva like her. 


The Spanish advertisement conveys the connotation that shaving your legs can make you feel secure and comfortable in your own skin… with a child:) Her iconic role allows her to play two different types of people to two different audiences that will buy the product for different reasons. 



I learned from this reading that images have a lot more control over our connections to our emotions than we realize. I remember learning in my Rhetoric Class about the Ogden-Richards study of our relationship between an image and meaning. 



These images show the causal relationship talked about in the text. Our minds associate certain images with a word or emotion without thinking about it. If this is done at a simple level, what types of subliminal messages are being portrayed through more advanced media?