Can A Picture Tell A Thousand Words?

“This poster consists of three separate but connecting parts within its composition. A jig-saw coffin, made up of pieces of wood fitted together, sits at the top of the poster. The pun ‘After we pick up the pieces, it’s your family’s turn’ is written below this in large white bold font on a black background. At the foot of the poster the crossed railway tracks become a symbolic cross, signifying death, and together with the imperative Stay off the tracks, and slogan ‘There’s no good reason for you to be on the tracks. The penalty is $200 or your life’ bring across a strong message for the Transperth and Public Transport Authority WA railway campaign.

Our attention is drawn immediately to the image of the coffin with its many blocky parts fitted together. Why is it like this we ask? Our curiosity is satisfied by the pun below the image where reference is made to “pieces” – both literally and metaphorically, giving meaning to the image. “After we pick up the pieces” refers to the police, emergency services and train staff who literally pick up the ‘pieces’ or remains of the victim after an accident. The metaphorical meaning refers to the emotional impact that the accident will have on your family who have to deal with this tragic loss of a family member when “it’s your family’s turn” to pick up the “pieces”. The use of space between the pun and the cross helps the viewer to build their understanding from several messages within the poster. The use of the capitalized font, which is more difficult to read than lower case, makes us concentrate on what the pun is saying, as we make links to the image above it. The full stop at the end of the sentence suggests finality.

As the viewer, we gaze upon the coffin, which symbolizes a dead person, rather than upon a person. It is almost a sense of the surreal as the victim is anonymous and this anonymity suggests that it could be us in the coffin. There is no hint made as to what age, gender, or race the victim is. The only thing that we know, as the viewer, is that our family is involved. The repetition of the personal pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your’ target you as a potential victim.

The diagonal lighting illuminates the coffin in the darkness of the morgue with darkness creating a shadowy, spooky atmosphere. This high angle shot looks down on the coffin and is intercepted by the light from the top left which creates a subtle framing by the darkness around it. The same lighting angle is highlighted in the railway cross symbol which is a similar shape to the coffin itself. Light reflects off where the tracks meet at the top left intersection. The black background is also lit from the top left as we can see flecks of shiny gravel shining in the top left section of the background.

Tracksafe Education

Images are part of the way we communicate and, through the Language and Literature course, it would be impossible to talk about how language operates in the world without considering the operations and impact of images. Many of the texts we encounter include images and some texts, such as road signs or paintings in an art gallery, might be made of images alone. Images are an integral part of most advertisement texts. This section will give you the opportunity to understand images better by learning how to analyze various components of visual images such as layout, use of lines, shapes and forms, light and colour and so on:

Class Activity

Find a visual text such as an advert, film poster, magazine cover or even painting. Present the text in the middle of a document and annotate this text using some of the techniques from the Visual Techniques Toolkit (above). Try to comment on the effect of these techniques as well. Present your findings to your classmates.

Learner Portfolio

Read the advert analysis at the top of this page. Complete your own advert analysis in the same way, challenging yourself to include comments on visual elements, composition and use of language.

Paper 1 Text Type Focus: Visual Texts

At the end of your course you will be asked to analyze unseen texts (1 at Standard Level and 2 at Higher Level) in an examination. You will be given a guiding question that will focus your attention on formal or stylistic elements of the text(s), and help you decode the text(s)’ purpose(s). Below is an advertising campaign that makes prominent use of Visual Images. As the images all come from the same campaign there are clear similarities between the messages they give and the visual techniques used to convey messages and create effects. Note down these tropes and add the texts to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam. The second text (Uniqlo advert) is presented in the form of Paper1. You could spend 60 minutes writing a sample response to this text as practice for this paper.


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