Do you find yourself analysing the words on a visual text more than the image itself? Don’t worry! In this post, we will ensure that you know how to analyse images and bring your English to the next level!
From a young age, we recognise symbols and visual aids and associate it with meaning.
For example, red lights mean stop, and green lights mean go.
It is our way of communicating with others.
The importance of visual literacy
Visual literacy is the ability to understand meaning and communicate using visual images, not words.
Visual literacy allows us to interpret and critically search for meaning using only visual aids.
Also, visual literacy can help us make meaning out of words. When we read difficult texts, we are always told to “imagine it play out in your head”. This is because visual information help us understand things better.
Are charts and graphs texts?
Yes! Don’t neglect analysing charts and graphs: the Stage 4 English Syllabus requires you to study them too!
Interpret and evaluate the effectiveness of information and ideas conveyed in diagrammatic representation, eg. charts, graphs, timelines and surveys.
Charts and graphs are considered as texts because they present information in a specific way to represent and communicate meaning. Often, it is very straight forward.
We will go through how to analyse these texts further in the article.
Thinking about art
Remember, artworks are also considered as visual texts because they convey meaning through the way they present their information.
This includes paintings, photographs, sculptures, installation etc.
When we analyse art, we can’t just look for the literal meaning of what you see. Unlike charts and graphs, art is more abstract.
You need to critically think and search for hidden meanings. Recognise visual hints and figure out what they represent.
Sharpen your analysing skills in 2-days!
In our Year 9 English Course, we go through essential English skills and help you practice and gain confidence in using them.
Analysing visual texts might seem daunting, but it really isn’t!
We will guide you through these easy steps, using March as an example to analyse visual texts.
Here is a page that we will analyse.
March is an autobiographical, graphic novel about the US Civil Rights Movement, told through the perspective of US Congressman and civil rights leader, John Lewis. He wrote it with the help of Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.
Step 1: First reading – The big picture
Here, you are trying to get an overall understanding of the text. This means looking at the text and what it is presenting.
Take a good look at the visual text. Read any text on the image and citation box.
To do this, let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
Is the visual text part of a series (page in graphic novel, shot from film…) or is it alone (painting, poster…)?
What is shown?
How do you feel about it?
Does the text explain the image?
What do you think it is trying to say?
Matrix students are taught a method to understand and analyse texts. This step helps you build comprehension.
Let’s apply this to March.
We are looking at ONE PAGE of a graphic novel.
It is showing a truck arresting black people from town to town.
It is quite confronting and unnerving.
The text tells us about the arrest from the perspective of Lewis. There are also music tunes indicating that someone is singing or chanting.
It is showing us about the unfair treatment of black people.
Step 2: Second Reading – Identifying techniques
Now that you know the general meaning of the visual text, you need to find techniques.
This means identifying them and interpreting what it represents.
To do this, you need to firstly, identify the techniques.
Remember, you are looking at visual techniques!
Of course, you can also analyse literary techniques if the image has text, but your focus should be on VISUAL, not literary.
In this step, you are looking for meaning and analysing.
Let’s take a look at what we can see in March:
Great contrast and graphic weight between first half and second half of the page in terms of lighting
There are harsh spikes that divide the page in half
Dim lighting on the black people’s face in the second half
A curvy line as speech bubbles, with music notes indicating that someone is singing or chanting “We shall overcome“. This line is also repeated three times.
Close up on fierce facial expression in last panel
You would want to take note of these features to assist you in your close analysis.
Step 3: Third Reading – Deep analysis
This is when you figure out the significance of the technique and link it to the purpose of the text.
To do this, you need to know the general purpose of techniques and link it to the subject and context of the visual technique.
In other terms, find what the technique means and how it relates to the composer’s purpose.
Let’s take a look at March:
The graphic weight and contrast of light and dark between the first half and the second half of the page symbolises the stark differences between black and white people in society.
The dim lighting and heavy shadows on the black men represents the hardships they suffer and society’s negative view of them.
The man’s fierce facial expression indicates that he is determined to right the wrongs his people has suffered.
The repetition of “we shall overcome” in wavy speech bubbles with music notes shows us that the black people are chanting. This highlights their determination to overcome the wrongs in society.
Considering all of this, we can conclude that society is racist towards people of colour. Lewis is not only confronting us of this truth, but he is also compelling us to actively fight for equal rights like the black people are doing.