Looking Responsibly

“All you do is just look around. Like that’s what, to me, is the amazing experience.” Hank Willis Thomas

The module which resonated most with me from MoMA’s Seeing Through Photographs was Constructing Narratives and Challenging Histories. This module looks at photographic images that create a narrative when purposefully chosen and presented as a themed group. A themed group of images extends a single image’s ability to communicate through the connotations and implications suggested by showing them together. A narrative is constructed. Meanings and understandings from a group of images link together, extending to create a story.

“The way the unbranded project started is I just thought by removing all the text and logos you could see what’s really being sold.”


In the artwork ‘Unbranded’ Hank Willis Thomas worked with advertisements from American magazines published during the 1980’s. He removed text and logos to encourage critical looking at what advertising images suggest and promise. Thomas’ artwork shows advertisements create unreal stereotypes of imaginary groups of people. The people in ‘Unbranded’ are happy, wealthy and healthy people.

“We say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but then we go about training everyone to judge books by their covers, and advertising relies on prejudice.”


Polixeni Papapetrou’s themed group of photographic images “It’s all about me” explores a similar concept from a different perspective. Her series of images show a young woman wearing a mask and t-shirt with a saying (or slogan). Papapetrou’s images suggest (to me) negative messages sent to young women by traditional mainstream advertising media. She constructs a narrative about young women’s commodified sexuality. Papapetrou’s series challenge the limited and superficial presentation of young women in advertising.

“I think it’s important that we take responsibility in actually minding and looking at the images that our society’s creating so we can really get a broader perspective of our time.”


Published by

Shirley Burley

Artwork Craft Creative Writing Graphic Design Photography

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