Visual Media Analysis

Pope Francis Time Cover

“Semiotics is the study of signs as conveyed through codes.” (Moriarty). This cover of Time magazine shows Pope Francis looking away from the reader and smiling to the left.  One of the most interesting messages conveyed in the picture is the tone.  With a shadowy silhouette the viewer sees the Pope as sinister.   Maybe the viewer is suppose to understand that the Pope is like every other person and like an average person he is a sinner shrouded in darkness.  Or possibly we are suppose to believe the Pope is a bad person, maybe even we should get the message that the world is under a shroud of darkness.  Bad or sinister are two messages the tone conveys.

Gomery talks about the effectiveness of color TV in helping NBC become number one in the ratings during the 1970’s (174), but lack of color can also be used as a technique.  One of the most basic struggles in all of literature is the battle between light and dark and the pursuit of light from the darkness.    The angle of the Pope seems purposeful because he has light on his forehead like he is facing the light and moving towards it.  This may be the photographers way of showing that the Pope is a human just like the average person who is trying to reach the light by escaping the darkness.

This cover was the source of extreme controversy when it first came out because some people claimed that Time had tried to make the Pope look like the devil.  For Catholics this was a cardinal sin and was impermissible.  Especially as Pavlik and McIntosh wrote, “They[photographs] transmit culture by what they show”(124), if the culture transmitted is incorrect culture than people must defend the correct culture.  Something the photographer left out purposefully is the Pope’s crucifix necklace and his rings.  This may purely have been a marketing move, to appeal to the broadest group of people because some consumers may think that a religious symbol that is not a part of their religion on a magazine would make the magazine offensive.  Possibly the photographer may have meant to make Pope Francis more appealing to the everyday person by not showing his solid silver crucifix and rings.

If we perceive the Pope to be a more personable person because his white clothes have been downplayed by a dark shadow and his religious articles have been blocked, technically this man could be anyone dressed in a robe because the few artifacts that make the pope uniquely his entity have been taken away.  This is dangerous because it means that based on different signs someone can be portrayed as anyone else.  For example a foreign country’s citizens might think Bert from Sesame Street when Photoshopped with Osama Bin Laden  is cause for an international (Convergence Culture, 2) incident purely based on ignorance.

Visual media can be used to galvanize men and women in a cause and it can also be used to discredit very powerful men and women.  When merely the lighting of a photo can convey the message of good or bad to a viewer than visual media is very powerful because illiterate people and children can get the same message as a very educated adult.  If consumers are constantly influenced to think a certain way without knowing it the beliefs may become something accepted in their world view.  An implicit condition for how one views the world is a very dangerous idea because it causes men and women to be close-minded to new ideas, and that could hurt advancement in everything from how the United States views the rest of the world to how we view our own educational system.


The link to the picture if you would like to view it is

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