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Symbols and images have a more than significant impact on one?s views of the world. Since childhood, a person?s brain uses representation of images into meanings to make sense of their world. These images then go on to being either the truth or falsehood and base a person?s views of the world for the rest of their life. All this can be explained through the idea of representation of everyday cultural mediums; such as advertisements and the television.
Representation is the way a person interprets symbols and images of a culture and the way these images explain why the world is the way it is. These symbols and images are seen in everyday cultural mediums so nobody is exempt from representation; even under strict exclusion from society. An example would be of a person brought up on Fifth Avenue who believes that the best clothes are made by the likes of Armani compared to a vagabond who believes that the best clothes are the ones that last him through the night.
Nearly every form of visual media a person comes into contact with is a photograph, which is undisputable evidence of an event. There is the myth of photographic truth, which means that photographs are subjective, yet can be manipulated and taken in different contexts. Take the photographs taken by Nazi?s during the holocaust. The photographs denote that Nazis killed millions of people, but the photographs may also take on many connotative meanings. Connotative meanings are views people hold on images based on their cultures and past experiences. One may have the connotative view that the images are horrendous while another might find justification within the actions of the Nazis.
Of the two connotative meanings mentioned with the Nazi pictures they each hold different ideologies; ideas that form a culture. The ideas of ideology are usually taken in as the views of most of the population of a given culture, therefore ideologies define cultures. An American ideology is the belief in independent freedom while a communist ideology is communal sharing. How are these ideologies passed on in a culture? They start off in schools and places that people gather. Malls are filled with advertisements. There are ads that symbolize skinny brunettes wearing Chanel as the perfect woman, which is what most men and women tend to take as truth. Then there are ads to enlist people into the army, which give a message of a strong country run by individuals.
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These images, though, may be interpreted differently. The army ad, which is a signifier, may give a different meaning, or a different signified interpretation of the same image. One may feel the urge to help out the country while another person might take it as the country wants to enlist people to fight a war that shouldn?t be fought in the first place. But there is also the idea of hegemony; that ideologies are what seem like common sense to people and that the popular ideologies are in a fight to stay in control over recessive ones. The hegemony in the Chanel advertisement would be that Chanel is a high end product but the company is always trying to stay ahead of the competition as to keep its style up to fashion.
Why is it a skinny brunette wearing the Chanel clothes, rather than an overweight redhead? This can be explained through psychoanalytic theory. It implies that people get feelings out of images because they tend to bond with them. In the case of the ad, a person might have been brought up in a culture that implies that skinny brunettes are the pretties of all. At a young age that person accepted that idea as true and holds it to this day, ending up buying a Chanel dress just because the lady in the ad is a skinny brunette.
Analyzing visual culture is a useful tool in learning more about the world in which we live in. One may see things in different light or an image might take upon new meaning once its meaning is analyzed and truly understood. Through the process of representation, psychoanalytic theory, and photographic truth, one may find a whole new world in the very one that they live in.