Research Point 1


“Rhetoric of the Image”¬† – An essay written by Roland Bathes, which attempts to decode the messages contained in images. He further looks at how text and images work together to transmit a message. His essay introduces the concepts of Anchorage and Relay which further describe how the text and the image work together.


Images can convey many different meanings Bathes uses the term anchorage to describe the way that text can be used to guide the viewer to a specific meaning or at least direct them through a complex set of possibilities to come to the desired meaning.


Where text is added to an image to compliment it and so that the text and image work together to convey a meaning that may not exist without the combination of the text and image.

Anchorage and Relay:

To highlight the difference between the two: Anchorage highlights a meaning that already exists within the image. Relay: blends with the image to create a new meaning

Some examples of Anchorage:

In the advert for the Monaco Grand Prix of 1932 we see an image of a racing car which on its own could have many meanings the text on the image specifically narrows this down to the Monaco Grand Prix thus fixing our reading to that event, the styling of the image has an Art Deco feel to it that also transmits a feeling of the time an opulence of that era.

The cover of the book “What does possession meant to you” uses an image of a couple embracing, the text makes us think of the individuals possessing each other, there are many ways that the image could be read the text fixes us on the idea of possession. The second caption is an example of relay demonstrating how anchorage and relay can work together in an image. This text connects possession and wealth and thus connects to the real subject of the book

The advert for Miss Monaco is a cleaver nudge to the male racing fans without the text we would not connect the image to Monaco as in the first image but the second text also guides us to the idea of the attractive woman firing up the desire of the men and also points to the fact its a car race too, a demonstration of Anchorage and Relay again working together.

The last image is a pure anchorage the text literally tells us this is a DIY Blanket Ladder, we can see that but without the text we may have drawn all sorts of other conclusions.

Some examples of Relay:

The first of the Relay images is advertising the pre-loved service the image does not hold this meaning but is linked by the phrase “holds the key”, its a literal metaphor but requires the use of imagination to link the concepts together. The keys are a symbol of the desired meaning.

The next is a cartoon taking a jab at austerity the picture itself is the Tax office at Christmas with a banner announcing the fact. The sub text points out the words missing from the banner and requires us to make the connection between austerity the tax office and the lack of any Merriment or prosperity.

The Mat cartoon works on a similar line the elderly couple are looking at a paper sowing pension cuts the caption requires us to know that grandparents give pocket money to their grandchildren and then make a connection to the change in fortune reversing that process.

Th classic US army recruitment poster is a picture of “Uncle Sam” a graphic representation of American culture values and patriotism, he is depicted pointing at us so we know it is us he is talking too the message adds the dimension of us having a duty to volunteer for the army.

I included the last one as I felt that the current craze for memes fell in to a category of relay, as they rely on a image that conveys a certain message that can be directed somewhere else by the slug of text. I this we are supposed to look at the child register that he is over weight and assume he just wants too eat, its rather cruel but then most memes are cruel, however, they do combine an image and some text to derive a different meaning.

Anchorage and Relay in our Work 

The essay was quite interesting once I found a way to wade through and digest the complex language, which originally written in French by a Philosopher, then translated by academics, had little chance of being written in a simple and easily digested script. I did find a way of reading and highlighting that made the process easy for me, and the underlying message is a really thought provoking and interesting one. Asked specifically to consider how it may help my creative approaches to working with text and image, I would have to say it gives a vital insight into the process.

It is clear that we need to understand first what message we are trying to convey in a piece of work, once we know what we want to say the images and text can be adjusted to perform their task. Through an understanding of Anchorage and Relay it is clear that there are two distinct approaches, that of directly labeling and telling the viewer what to think “Anchorage” though this can be subtle, and that of mixing two different elements and allowing the imagination to construct the meaning. I feel the latter is the more creative in terms of creating art though both are valid. I think the we probably would practice some of this inadvertently if we had not studied the text, and I think that this will help a lot in the assignment so that the text and images content can very deliberately constructed to convey the right message.