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Analyzing Images as Text Instructions

How to Analyze Images as Text

• Viewer: As the viewer, what are the thoughts and emotions the images created? What are positive and negative feelings? How does the creator achieve these reactions in the viewer? How does the creator associate connotative meanings in with the images?
• Media: What media (painting, sculpture, website, graph, etc.) is used to present the images? How does the media type influence the viewer’s interpretation of the message? How would the message change if the media changed? Is there other media associated with this visual that the viewer is encouraged to see? How does the creator persuade the viewing that other media?
• Characterization: How are people portrayed in the images? How is culture portrayed through the characters? Do the characters represent different races, genders or ethnicity? Why or why not?
• Culture: What emotions does the visual image induce? Are these the emotions that it intends to evoke? What cultural values does the visual appeal to? What does this tell the viewer about humanity, society, culture?
• Light/Color: What colors are used in the images? What colors do your eyes see first? Does this use of color have symbolic meaning? As the viewer, how do you know this? What mood or tone does the color scheme express to the viewer?
• Design: What do your eyes notice first? Why? How is the building, landscape, setting structured? What is the significance of displaying the image this way? Where are the images located in the visual: foreground, background, left, center, right, etc.?
• Message: What is the message the creator is trying to send? Are they successful? How would the message change if the visual was different? What are the details in the visual that constructs an argument for the viewer? What argumentative purpose does the visual image convey?
• Creator: Why was the visual created? What is the creator’s attitude toward the image? Does knowing the creator effect the viewer’s interpretation of the message?


SPATER: A method for analyzing visual media
(cartoons, photographs, drawings, advertisements, video, other visuals)

1. S – Subject: Analyze the subject of the image. Explore the possibility of a larger, implied subject beyond just the immediate, obvious subject itself. Discuss the context / occasion of the image.

2. P – Purpose: Define the implied and /or explicit purpose of this image. Remember that purpose must go beyond informing and must be connected to a specific action. Examine any political implications of the image. Could the image be considered propaganda? Analyze how the image furthers an agenda.

3. A – Audience: Identify the forum (magazine, newspaper, website) for which the image was created. Analyze how the original placement of the image is connected to audience. Determine whether the audience has changed and / or expanded over time. Describe the characteristics of the primary and secondary audience.

4. T – Tone: Analyze the tone that the creator (photographer / artist / cartoonist) of the image has toward his / her subject. Explain how the tone is communicated to the audience.

5. E – Effect: Analyze the intended effect the image has on the audience. Explore the possible unintended effects of the image.

6. R - Rhetorical Devices / Strategies: Analyze the rhetorical devices (strategies) and appeals (ethos, logos, pathos) implied or made explicit in the image. Explain how those appeals function.