We are given power in many forms; verbal, physical, mental. Through time the way we use power has evolved, especially the way we execute violence. Swords, cannons, public execution, courtrooms, and science have to lead us down a path where the power to end thousands of lives can be determined in the push of a button. Practically as simple as smoking a cigarette.
As a student in English 101, we have been asked to work with image juxtaposition. I have worked with an image, creating it from scratch, to juxtapose the idea that we hold power, more than we might think, on the tips of our fingers.
To start this image I found inspiration from non-citable images from Pinterest. These images shared a concept of taking a small thing in our lives and giving them the power to have a big influence on our daily practice.
For example, a tiny razor blade cuts into the ocean and pushed the waves onto the shore.
Having this style of the image in mind, I found a nuclear bomb exploding and a woman holding a cigarette. Using an app on my phone I was able to cut out the hand, lay it over the bomb, reposition where I wanted it, add text, and a filter.
The nuclear explosion is in the middle of the desert (more of experimentation than in-practice visual, no buildings or people in frame). The right side has been given the hand of power (a posh female), her hand is implying that the ashing of her cigarette is connecting her to the powerful explosion. Along with that her finger positioned around the cigarette appears as a fuck you to the bomb. On the left side hand of power is labeled as somewhat a title or explanation. That’s the visual explanation, but there is much more to analyze from a different standpoint. Let’s take a look.
In image juxtaposition we are working with contrast, to help define those contrast we can use Jenae Cohn’s article Understanding Visual Rhetoric. She explains six words to understand; lines, colors, shapes, size, space, value, and texture. When looking at my image lines and outlines are giving it depth, for example, the line dividing the earth and sky. Then the outline of the cigarette completely shifts the story, it connects the flames telling a story of privilege. The image without the posh hand would create question or empathy, but the hand explains why there’s an explosion.
The next is color, the first color I see in the sky, a very pure blue. This reminds me of my homestead in New Mexico, which happens to be where the first Nuclear bomb was created, slightly a juxtaposition in itself. The next color I want to note is the hand, white, the people who have held power for much too long. But add red nails, the image feels feminine, a new taste to power. Finally the text color choice, the primary color matching the baby blue but shadowed by the same orange we see in the bomb.
Shapes, Jenae Cohn’s article says, “in the natural world, we may easily recognize shapes like clouds, trees, and water droplets.” (pg. 28). The plume of clouds is creating a tree shape, this is interesting because the most man-made machine is even familiar with its roots.
When looking at sizing in the image I look at the hand compared to the explosion. In my original text, I wrote, “the little guy vs. the big guy” trying to portray the micro vs. macro. Small ash creating a deathly force.
Space comes into play in the image arrangement. The text keeping a similar distance as the hand and letting the explosions sit front and center. Non more important than the other but instead finding a harmony to the eye and idea.
Value is seen in the bright welcoming scene, shadows allowing the highlights to take the form of the desert getting darker as it fades into the distance.
The last view is texture, the image has been covered in a soft matte filter allowing the image to be gentle while the words remain sharp and clear. The image has been given a vintage feel that helps it tell a history.
Another way to look at this image is through exigence, constraints and audiance. Exigence is what you are trying to achieve. I am trying to achieve many things, I wanted colors to flow, for it to feel vintage, for it to be funny, uncomfortable, feminine, and much more. The biggest goal is not having a goal. I wanted everyone’s interpretation to be valid and personal but meaningful to all.
The constraints of this piece came in the creation, finding images I wanted was very difficult and then them needing to be citable (a piece for English 101) was beyond challenging. In this day and age when you google search an image (copy& paste an image into the search bar), 100 hundreds of the same image will flow over your screen, all posted by someone different. Otherwise, I was rather free to follow my ideas and change as I felt necessary.
Audience, this piece is for my English teacher, classmates and myself. Beyond this small circle I hope to access a younger generation who sees it as an invitation for question.
The last thing I wanted to note about this image is its very real connection to starting fires. An estimated over 100,000 fires are started yearly by cigarettes. So next time you carelessly “dispose” of your cigarette, remember you could be activating a nuclear bomb.