Issuu on Google+

Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

Peaches, Rouilly le Bas (2002) Photographer: Ellen Von Unwerth

In this essay I will be analysing and discussing the visual semiotics of Peaches, Rouilly le Bas (2002) photographed by Ellen Von Unwerth. I will be using Roland Barthes Barthesian Theory in the publication Image Music Text, focusing on the two chapters The Photographic Message and Rhetoric of the Image, to support my analysis of my chosen image surrounding denoted and connoted messages. The main points I will cover are gender roles and sexuality, and how Peaches either rejects or accepts these issues in relation to society’s ideologies in which it is presented. This of course differentiates between different societies as well as other influential factors such as gender, race, religion and social status. The photograph itself is merely an image; it is


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

us as an audience, the ‘reader’ that creates a response in the form of understanding the image due to our social influences and ideologies. Barthes explains this: “the code of the connoted system is very likely constituted either by a universal symbolic order or by a period rhetoric, in short by a stock of stereotypes (schemes,colours, graphisms, gestures, expressions, arrangements of elements).” (Barthes, 1977, pg18)

In this image: there are three women, sitting on a wall whilst eating peaches. The women are all wearing stockings and dresses. The woman on the right is the only model with direct mode of address and has her head tilted to one side whilst eating a peach. Her legs are positioned apart and her black underwear is on show. She has her hair in what appears to be pigtails, we cannot see the other side, and she is wearing a leather glove. The woman in the centre is looking down whilst eating her peach and her dress is covering her underwear even though her legs are open. She also has a ladder in her tights. The model on the left has her legs shut but you can still see the tops of her stockings and underwear. She is looking out of the scene and appears not to be holding a peach. The back ground appears to be a row of houses, suggesting that the models are sitting on a curb or road side. The picture is black and white and has high contrast. All models are wearing lipstick and eye make-up, the models on the left and right are blonde and the central model is a brunette.

The image is shot by Ellen Von Unwerth, she is renowned for creating photography that is sexualised but in a way that is almost empowering to women instead of objectifying. Rather than solely appealing to heterosexual males, it also explores the fantasies and femininity that


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

surrounds the female form. Unwerth does this by showcasing models sometimes completely nude, in a way that is provocative rather than sleazy, fun rather than pornographic. Peaches is black and white, which is quite often used by Unwerth, this adds a sense of authenticity, yet simplicity. The audience is then not distracted by superficiality but drawn into the mood of the image and the models and objects themselves, Barthes discusses this use of ‘photogenia’ concluding that “the connoted message is the image itself, 'embellished'.” (Barthes, 1977, pg 23)

The fact that there are three women within the photograph cannot be under estimated; notice that the first model, on the left has her legs shut and does not appear to be holding a peach. Connotations of this pose could be innocence and naivety, her distant expression and lack of engagement anchor this idea. Following this, the central model has her legs open with her clothing covering her underwear. This model is eating a peach, and although she is not showcasing any nudity or overtly sexual behaviour there are connotations of seduction which is suggested by the way in which the models mouth is open and the peach is almost falling from her lips. Finally the third model, whose legs are open, her stockings, thighs and underwear are all visible. It is important to note that she has direct mode of address which engages the viewer to the eyes and therefore the face. The models head is at an almost horizontal tilt enabling the attention to be brought to the models mouth which is wide open, highlighting the peach being eaten. The three women being sat next to each other and from left to right showing ‘evolving’ stages of flirtation and confidence have connotations of changing attitudes amongst women that they have changed within society, and are more comfortable with their sexuality and embracing their femininity.


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

Three is a powerful number and is used continuously in advertising, film and photography. Expanding on this point and touching upon the fact that there are three women in the picture. is linked to John Thomas Smith’s ‘Rule of Thirds’ written in 1797, which is still used today as a compositional ‘tool’, to create impact. The main reason for this is to enable the viewer to ‘connect’ with a certain focal point and expand from there. The main focus in this image is the woman on the right, with her crotch visible and head tilted, then to the central model and continuing to the left of the image. The use of three women could also have connotations of unity, with the three independent women. On the other hand, it could be construed as a male fantasy, with three women posing erotically. The way in which the image ‘Peaches’ is shot, in black and white, creates connotations of historical connections. Adding to this ‘historical’ aspect of the image is the way in which the models are dressed, in what appears to be a 1940’s style, with pin curled hair and 40’s dress. This point enables us to explore the difference between dress and dressing, although these models may be in a certain era’s ‘dress’, this picture was actually shot in 2002. Women in the 1940’s were expected to be covered and modest, a time when an ankle on show was risqué. However, this picture is the opposite of this pre-conception. The models in this image are revealing parts of their body considered sexual, erogenous zones. They are ‘dressing’ as a form of expression to evoke a sense of rebellion, linking to and opposing the constraints against women in the 1940’s. This has connotations that although women are still classy, they do have ‘power’ in the sense that they have open sexuality, passions and desires. Instead of the women being submissive to a male influence, as they were taught to be in the 1940’s, it is going against past gender roles and opposing these social expectations of the time and modernising them in a way that could be read on a deeper level, that even in today’s


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

society women are still viewed differently to men and still do not possess the same level of authority or power. The manner in which they are dressed also has a ‘girl next door’ style, with the model on the right in pigtails. This again adds innocence but is contradicted by her pose. This reiterates that it is not solely the clothes which add a mood to an image but the way in which they are portrayed. In reality if this image showed three women sat completely covered in clothing and eating peaches in a natural way it would not be seen as sexual, neither would the peach. However, this image has connotations of fantasy, as if we have just stumbled upon three women who appear to be refined and dignified with their kempt hair and pristine dresses, but in reality they are women, sexual women who know what is provocative and thus here lies the power. This creates an almost comical aspect to this image, in the way in which it uses an everyday object, a peach, to provoke a sexual ambience. In society a peach wouldn’t have connotations of sexuality, but Barthes suggests that this is only relevant to “a certain 'culture' of the society receiving the message.” (Barthes, 1977, pg17) The simplicity of using the peach creates sexualised connotations to us as an audience, meaning that instead of the photograph holding any actual ‘hidden’ meaning it is instead subjected and as Barthes describes, “is not only perceived, received, it is read, connected more or less consciously by the public that consumes it to a traditional stock of signs.” (Barthes, 1977, pg19) So, within westernised ideological views, a peach often evokes connotations of ‘juicy’ and used when referring to some-ones buttocks, ‘like a juicy round peach’. For example of how widely this ‘sign’ is accepted, is The Stranglers song ‘Peaches’ with the lyric: “walking on the beaches looking at the peaches” also their single cover for this insinuates that the peach is the buttocks and the finger is pulling on the underwear (see image a).


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

This almost elevates the peach to becoming a sexual fetish, by replacing normal sex or references with an inanimate object, therefore, “Objects no longer perhaps possess a power, but they certainly possess meanings.” (Barthes, 1977, pg 23)

It is evident that although dependant on social influences, a photograph can be ‘read’ on various levels when subjected to critical analysis. In this instance sexuality is the primary element when decoding the ‘message’. However, connotations hold a powerful influence over what this means to us as the ‘reader’ personally, it could be sexual liberation, adhering to social norms by appeasing men or even causing offence. The denoted and connoted readings of an image will of course forever change, “signification is always developed by a given society and history,” but what remains constant is that a photograph “is a message without a code; from which proposition an important corollary must immediately be drawn: the photographic message is a continuous message.” (Barthes, 1977, pg17)

-ENDS-


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

References: Barthes, R.

‘The Photographic Message’ in Image, Music, Text, London: Fontana.1977 (Pages 15-31)

Barthes, R.

‘The Rhetoric of the Image’ in Image, Music, Text, London: Fontana. 1977 (Pages 32-51)

Bibliography: Barthes, R.

Image, Music, Text, London: Fontana, 1977

Carson & Pajaczkowska (ed)

Feminist Visual Culture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000

Hollows, J.

Feminism, Femininity and Popular Culture. Manchester University Press. 2000

Sturken, M & Cartwright.

Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001

Online: http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/photography/all/06314/facts.ellen_von_unwerth _fraeulein_art_edition_peaches_2002.htm (ONLINES:LAST ACCESSED 27TH OCT 2011)


Fashion Analytics AE1: Textual Review.

Hannah Carroll Year 3

Word Count:1626

http://blog.bomarr.net/2011/05/23/the-stranglers-peaches/ (ONLINE: LAST ACCESSED 3RD NOV 2011) http://www.diagonalmethod.info/ (ONLINE: LAST ACCESSED 1st NOV 2011)

http://www.consumertraveler.com/columns/compose-your-travel-photos-using-the-rule-ofthirds/ (ONLINE: LAST ACCESSED 1stNOV 2011) http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/composition/149572-origin-rule-thirdshistorical-research.html (ONLINE: LAST ACCESSED 1st NOV 2011)

Appendices: Image a:


Fashion Analytics Essay