Reading Violent Images

By Green, Gaye | Art Education, March 2004 | Go to article overview

Reading Violent Images


Green, Gaye, Art Education


"Great events, including terrible ones, produce great images" (Hampton, p. 1A). Despite the potentially tragic nature of journalist Rick Hampton's observation, the central role that imagery plays in our daily lives is evident. Indeed, many events are remembered primarily through imagery, as is the case with Nick Ut's black-and-white photograph of a young nude girl, fleeing a napalm bomb attack. For many people, this image epitomizes the ravages of the Vietnam War.

The power of images to convince, impact, illuminate, and provide long-lasting reminders of events underscores the significance of contemporary images to art education (Green, 1999). Incorporating such imagery into curriculum can, however, be a daunting enterprise. Relevant and compelling on the one hand, on the other, the undertaking can be overwhelming and even controversial.

In this article, a three-step process for the utilization of contemporary images related to violence is presented. These steps are: 1) the organization of imagery into comprehensible components, 2) a research methodology for reading images, and 3) an activist plan that employs art production to address the issues raised by the images. This discussion will exemplify the significance of images within society and suggest the importance that such content can have within art education curriculum.

Indeed, if there is any doubt about how violent imagery impacts society and at the same time raises ethical issues, one need look no further than the war on Iraq. In particular, two instances demonstrate how images signify information. For example, on January 27, 2003 the United Nations covered a tapestry replica of Guernica located at the entrance to the Security Council of the U.N. with a blue curtain prior to discussions regarding possible attacks on Iraq. "One diplomat noted that it would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N.-John Negroponte or Powell-talked about war surrounded with women, children, and animals shouting in horror and showing the suffering of the bombings" (Vallen, 2003). Secondly, when the government in Baghdad was overtaken by the United States, it was charged that the destruction of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein by a group of Marines was a staged event. To the cheers of Iraqi citizens, the U.S. Armed Forces toppled the bronze sculpture to signal the end of a regime. Such actions reflect the power of images to convey psychological aspects of history and testify to their potential for curricular content.

Exploring Strategies Used by Image Producers

After collecting images that correspond to violence, the first step in building a unit on contemporary issues is to catalogue them. When perusing more than 100 images culled from newspapers, periodicals, the Internet, and magazines, I recognized that several issues were raised. These issues are summarized by the following categories:

Glamorization and Celebrity Appeal, or the exaggerated, sometimes romanticized importance placed on images promoted in the media. Does the media glamorize violence when publishers feature young murderers such as accused sniper John Malvo on the covers of nationally distributed magazines or is such coverage vital public information? Does such media coverage afford celebrity status craved by certain individuals such as Sirhan Sirhan, who "was heard to boast in prison that he had become as famous as Bobby Kennedy" or is this an isolated incident (Cornwall, p. 353)? Do movies that romanticize crime sprees, like Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, misrepresent the harmful effects of violent acts or are they innocuous entertainment? Do televised crime shows such as The Sopranos cause copycat criminal acts such as the episode that, according to two California brothers, inspired them to cut off the head and hands of their mother after they had murdered her (People, p. 126)?

Minimization, or the downplaying of the significance of violent acts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Reading Violent Images
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.