visual culture

Reaction Shots and Reader Response at the Purple Wedding

Image of Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones, choking, with text overlaid: 'Those shoes, with that dress?'

Image Credit: Cyndicyanide

[Note: Spoilers below the cut.]

As a Game of Thrones fan, I was pretty excited to watch this last week’s episode. It’d been a while since I’d watched, and the wedding of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell gathered together many of the show’s beloved characters.

Children, Monsters and the Anticipation of Mayhem: Analyzing the Horror Photography of Joshua Hoffine (NSFW)

child before scary clown shadow

Image Credit: Joshua Hoffine

With Halloween on the horizon, I thought I'd take a break from the horror show of the campaign to consider some more visceral scares, and photographer Joshua Hoffine provides viscera aplenty in his works. The image above is one of Hoffine's tamer outings, though it is still disturbing. A small child stands outside before a clothes line hung with drying laundry. The sun shines behind a large white sheet, casting the shadow of a clown holding a bunch of balloons in one hand and displaying a set of menacing claws on the other. Hoffine uses children in many of his photos, contrasting the innocence and helplessness of childhood with the savage agency of monsters human and supernatural. Before we look at other photos, I suggest readers consider the images below the fold not safe for work or for those who prefer to avoid depictions of bodily violence and mutilation, death and decomposition, children in life threatening scenes, or children posed near their dead, violently murdered, parent's corpses.

A Window in Time: Eadweard Muybridge's "Horse in Motion"

Student walking by Horse in Motion

Image Credit: Harry Ransom Center Photo by Anthony Maddaloni

Near the sorth-eastern quadrant of the Harry Ransom Center is a series of images of a jockey throttling a racehorse: Eadweard Muybridge's "Horse in Motion." While these images may seem inconspicuous juxtaposed to Dorothea Lange's eminently recognizable photographs, their ability to bear witness to a horse's motion was both evidence of an event and a monumental event in itself. The product of two men's obsessions, "Horse in Motion" is both a fascinating example of a visual argument and a foundational episode in the history of motion pictures.

Hey Girl, I Made This Meme For You

Image from Fuck Yeah Ryan Gosling

Image Credit: F--- Yeah Ryan Gosling

Some recent procrastinating led me to Jezebel and thus Joey Thompson’s recent YouTube video, in which he teaches men how to look like actor Ryan Gosling. I was intrigued because I have been following the proliferating Ryan Gosling memes for a while—which have gone on long enough that they’ve been accused of jumping the shark.  Still, I’d like to take some time to think a little bit about what their newest evolutions might tell us about memes, form, and feminine desire.

From Sea to Shining McDonald's, and Other Americas: Critical Cartography II

Map of distances to McDonald's

Image by Stephen von Worley

Last week, I wrote about the power of cold-war era maps when it comes to visualizing Western attitudes towards the Soviet bloc, and, in the work of William Bunge, visualizing themselves.  This week I want to continue my trip down critical cartography's rabbit-hole with an overview of maps that attempt to locate forms of the "American experience."  How can aspects of daily life in America be represented visually?  The following maps try to answer that question, in playful, political, and subversive ways.

A Modern Take on Still Life

Image Credit: David Halliday on

Photographer David Halliday's current exhibition of still lifes at the San Antonio Museum of Art contains some stunningly beautiful and surreal photographs of food. It also lends itself to use in the rhetoric classroom and could be used for teaching lessons about visual literacy, changing contexts and visual rhetoric within communities. More about Halliday, still life and possible classroom uses after the break.

A Politics of Plating

Evan Sung for the New York Times

Image Credit: Evan Sung for the New York Times

A recent article in the Dining and Wine section of the New York Times led me to rethink the importance of visual culture in the current round of debates about food in America. In a shift from the usual conversation about how food is deceitfully misrepresented in branding or advertising, the article at hand got me thinking about the role played by the visual presentations of actual meals. Thinking about plating allows us to revisit the relationship between food and visual culture and reimagine sight as a creative component of foodways—instead of a predatory marketing ploy—with the potential to positively impact the ways we eat. 

The Glee Effect: New Media Marketing for Old Institutions

Happy to be back!

Screenshot Credit: YouTube

Zounds!  After Noel’s heartwarming welcome-back posting, I feel reinvigorated and ready to begin posting again here at viz.  I did rest my blogging muscles over the break, but managed to take a few notes for what will hopefully be more piquant posts on pop culture.

Recently, my friends have helpfully provided me with such a deluge of musical material that I don’t know what to do with it all.  My friend Cate Blouke forwarded me the NPR story about HOPE: The Obama Musical, which delights me to no end—but I was a little more intrigued by a video my friend Meghan Andrews brought to my attention—a short-form musical YouTube video that doubles as a Yale advertisement called “That’s Why I Chose Yale.”

Being Seen: Photographing the Blind

This semester, while teaching a course called "Photographic Narratives" for the Plan II Honors Program at UT Austin, I organized a panel of four top local photographers. One of the panelists, Sarah Wilson, brought work from her BLIND PROM series, which precipitated a discussion of ethics and the history of photography.


Photograph by Paul Strand

Image Credit: Paul Strand

This 1916 image by Paul Strand is one of the earliest notable photos of a blind subject. 

In an effort to create candid street photos, Strand had been using a trick camera with a false lens that misdirected attention (like a magician waving his wand—look over there!), allowing the photographer to get close to his subjects without their knowledge. That subterfuge was unnecessary in this case. The blind woman is the perfect subject for a photographer like Strand—“the objective corollary of the photographer’s longed-for invisibility” as described by critic Geoff Dyer in The Ongoing Moment.

"Trick or Treat, Smell my Feet..."

kid in skeleton costume

H/T: The New York Times

I found that I just couldn't resist finding some possible posting that connects to Halloween and it didn't take me long to stumble across an article in the New York Times that focuses on grade school guidelines for appropriate costumes.  Apparently several elementary and secondary schools across the county are urging (or requiring) students to limit their choice of costume to selections that are not scary, not offensive, not violent.  While it seems completely understandable to restrict students from wearing costumes that rely on offensive stereotypes, I wonder where these schools draw the line on what exactly is appropriate.  Restricting children's costumes raises several provocative questions: is Halloween a tradition that does/should celebrate horror?  Are children already exposed to too many violent images (in other words, is a zombie scarier than Grand Theft Auto)?  What should be the role of the parent in policing appropriate costumes?  the role of the school in policing appropriate dress?

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