Reading photographs – Project 2: Reading pictures – Exercise


Rip out an advertising image from a newspaper supplement and circle and write on as many parts of the image as you can. Comment on what it is, what it says about the product and why you think it’s there. You could use this as the basis for your assignment if you feel it’s taking you somewhere interesting. Or you could adopt this method for your assignment preparation.

Come back to this exercise when you’ve reached the end of Part Four and see if you can add anything to your analysis.

Whilst looking at various print advertisements, I noticed a trend for simple images, which although effective, had little content for deconstruction other than some colour, text and a metaphor for ‘why you need this product’. So rather than choose an advert for a product, I chose an advertisement  from a campaign.


This print is one of a series from an American campaign to change the laws on gun control. Below I have highlighted the elements of the advert that I believe are pertinent, with a brief explanation as to what it contributes to the overall effectiveness of the image.


  1. A chocolate egg containing a toy. Commonplace in most of the world and loved by kids. An item that many of us will have memories of enjoying as kids ourselves. By choosing a small, seemingly delicate item, emphasis is made regarding the ridiculousness of current policy. It forces those who are ‘pro-gun’ to question their own morals and ethics. How can you ban one and not the other?
  2. The contrast. A large, dangerous item, made to seem larger and more dangerous in the hands of a petite girl. Goes hand in hand with 1.
  3. The classroom setting. A place where children ‘should’ be safe. a place of innocence and learning, but all too often the scene of tragedy due to mass shootings. This setting has been used to complement 1 and 2. Guns do not belong in the hands of children and certainly do not belong in schools. An Assault Rifle does not belong in everyday society, it belongs on the battlefield.
  4. Empty Chairs. A deserted classroom. Connotations of silence, a void, emptiness, a mourning for children lost to gun crime. Not wanting to send kids to school for fear of guns.
  5. Ethnicity and gender. At first I thought this might be a coincidence, but on looking at the rest of the campaign, each and every image features a seemingly typical white American child holding the gun, and then a child of typically ethnic origin holding the innocuous item. Both are always of different sex. To me this has 2 effects. Firstly it creates a contrast, which compliments 1 & 2. Secondly, it works on a subconscious level, triggering and using prejudices to communicate meaning. Americans have a history of being notoriously racist and of having a fear of the unknown. In these images we feel that it’s not the ‘unknown’ we should be fearful of, it is the homegrown dangers  of a ‘societal and cultural ‘need/dependence’ on guns that posses the real danger. Again, this is attacking the senses of those who are perhaps more old-fashioned and members of the pro-gun lobby, the real Rednecks.
  6. Style. The image has a contrasty, subdued and dark finish which gives it a sense of seriousness. It works to communicate that the issue is a serious one, despite the initial absurdity of the opening statement (1 & 2).
  7. The children are in a spotlight/vignette which separates them from their surroundings. This helps to detach them from the setting, allowing 3 to work to better effect. Their position in the centre of the frame makes the image easy on the eye and well-balanced, which allows us to look for longer without getting uncomfortable.
  8. Just in case we were in any doubt… The text at the top of the advert poses a question then leads us to the image, allowing us time and opportunity to make our own minds up and deduce an answer. For those that might not have quite ‘got-it’, this is then spelt out at the bottom.


D, L. (no date) 33 powerful and creative print ads That’ll make you look twice. Available at: (Accessed: 20 February 2016).


5 thoughts on “Reading photographs – Project 2: Reading pictures – Exercise

  1. Very good example. Somehow the advert seems all too easy to understand and, yet, who is it appealing to? Just wondering if it’s too sophisticated somehow – appeals to those who agree guns should be banned but I doubt it would change the views of those who uphold the gun laws. I’m probably biased/prejudiced though – having certain views on people who think guns are the answer.


  2. Great deconstruction Adam. It’s rather mind boggling to observe Americans in their local outdoor stores buying guns. The range of weaponry they have to choose from is very scary – everything is there from your handgun to the AK47 and more.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s