Signifier – signified

“Rhetoric of the image” seems to appear in every photography module, which I take to indicate the importance that is placed on understanding the concepts involved here. This essay is still very hard to fully get to grips with – not least because he uses several words I always have to look up in the dictionary.

For this exercise I have used an advert for a jacket from Fjällräven.

Fjallraven cropped

In Barthes’ terms, “anchorage” is provided by the secondary text. This makes it clear that the focus is the jacket and not other items of clothing, the man wearing the jacket or even possibly his teeth (it could be a toothpaste advert without the anchoring text).

The image itself provides other connotations. The background is out of focus but does show what appear to be chalets; these are signifiers but signifies a holiday, an expedition, a journey away from the normal day to day life.

The man depicted has a certain look that could easily be described as Swedish. Long blond hair and beard is suggestive of a Viking. This also signifies ruggedness and courage. But (in this country at least) we can associate Sweden with  health, mental well-being, and a relaxed attitude to sex. He is smiling and looks to have good teeth, also signifying a happy and healthy life. The muted colours of his clothes are suggestive of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors; an explorer, one who has a taste for adventure. The general look is of someone who is good-looking and comfortable with himself. He is on his own, suggesting an independent spirit, one who is happy in his own company but not a hermit. Women want to be with him and men want to be him.

The advert appeared in the summer 2019 edition of “Nature’s Home”, the RSPB magazine. It is reasonable to assume that the advert is directed at people sharing a liking for nature and being outdoors. The image is intended to signify that the jacket would greatly enhance the viewer’s own lifestyle. Indeed the main text makes this absolutely clear; you need this jacket to better appreciate the things you already enjoy.

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