Images interpreted in different ways

Images can be interpreted in a variety of ways. When we look at images we bring our cultural baggage and personal experiences when we look to decode the image. This brief composition looks at the interpretation and expressions of the viewer.


Under advice from one of my peers, I was adamantly told that if I wanted to test my images, I would need to email them from the safety of my computer as persons in the City Centre can be quite impatient and even aggressive in the City Centre. Before making a final decision on how to approach the project, I went into town to see this for myself. I observed the ‘Cancer Research Representatives’ desperately trying to stop people who either pretended not to acknowledge their presence or pulled their hoodie lower over their face or my favourite a quick dart in a semi circle, yet walking in a straight line…


On realizing this was going to be much more difficult than I thought, I went for another approach. I joined the gym recently and I am not familiar with anyone there. There is a lounge and restaurant area and a juice bar. So while people were waiting to be served or simply just reading a newspaper I approached them before and after my workout. People were most pleasant and cooperative as they were not in a rush to go anywhere. I informed them I was a student and I had a test to conduct using four images, which would take a total of 60 seconds.


Participants were prompted to say briefly what they felt when they saw the following images. 3 of the four images contained no text references. On conducting the test there was one loophole, which was rectified quickly. Initially for speed and convenience for the tester, the images were placed separately on sheet of paper and space left below for jotting notes. The second participant conveniently slotted in what the previous person had said in one image. So all notes thereafter were hidden, so as not to influence the viewer. The results are as follows:



12 participants: Male – 6            Female – 6 (of all ages ranging from 25 – 65).

Dear Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear Image

25 % – Felt sorry for ‘Teddy’

25% – Awww… he’s Cute

25% – Sad

8.3% – Felt nothing

8.3% – Medical reference

8.3% – Childhood memory but without the bandages

Real’ Context: The teddy bear image was collected from Q & A health section in Glamour Magazine. 2011

Kenyan Man

Man of Hope

16.6% – Puts the whole world in perspective

16.6% – Poverty

8.3% – Feels nothing

8.3% – Praying for something better

33.3% – Sad

Simply interested in image

Real’ Context: Yoga magazine. An article on a Yoga Campaign, showing Kenyans how yoga can improve their lives.  2011

Linford Christie as poster boy for Kleenex 'Pocket' tissues

Kleenex ‘Pockets’ Advertisement

8.3 % – This is not what is important – (After viewing ‘man of hope’ photograph)

41.6% – Chuckled

8.3% – Butch

16.6% – Feels nothing

8.3% – Strength and nice body

8.3% – He’s fit


*33.3% of those who chuckled were women.


Real’ Context: Kleenex advertisement from Men’s Fitness magazine using British sprinter Linford Christie. 2011

A form of decadence (for some)

Strawberry & Chocolate Photograph

8.3% – This is pure advertising!

16.6% – Hungry

8.3% – Someone’s sweet!

Delicious: immediate descriptions such as “Yummy….Heavenly”, “Happy! I want chocolate!”,

16.6% – Sexual Feelings

16.6 – It’s just chocolate and/or fruit

8.3% – Feels nothing


Real’ Context: (Modifed by partial cropping) A double page spread found in Yoga magazine informing readers on alternative aphrodisiacs apart from what is shown.



About s o l o s t u d i o

Graphic Designer and Tutor View all posts by s o l o s t u d i o

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