Visual Rhetoric—Static Image

Analysis of a Static Image

A few semesters back, my Comp II students examined and analyzed a static graphic before they “graduated” to critiquing their Moving Visuals.


Their reactions were various, eventually. For a while, they stumbled and couldn’t say much of anything at all. They tried these approaches:

  1. I personally believe that this morph was created because they wanted to show America that regardless of who we elect as president, were going to be disappointed in some way. Even though Bush did some great things during his presidency, we only remember the bad. The country had such high hopes for Obama, and now from what I hear in my home, he is not succeeding either. Will America ever be satisfied?
  2. My first reaction to the George Bush and Barack Obama face morph was merely on a surface level because I, admittedly, am not very politically invested. I do not frequently watch the news or read newspapers, which is why I believe I had a difficult time coming up with a deeper interpretation for this piece of art. At first, I simply thought it was fascinating how these two different presidents looked so much alike. Due to my lack of political knowledge, I struggled for a while to determine any other type of meaning this morph had. I honestly thought it to be just aesthetic artwork.
  3. The header graphic shows the transition between the two political leaders. It represents how their political views maybe different on some issues, while they may have similar view points. The last picture most likely symbolizes how society has been accepting to other ethnic groups to become president. The transitions between the colors background may represent how the government is becoming more powerful. After president Brush was president of the country he was going through an economic recession, and during the Obama presidency the economy eventually become stronger.

Support in the form of more questions

After a few days of reading early drafts, I posted a “Support” piece that contained two more images and some leading questions (in blue).

While you’re working out your reactions to the Bush-Obama Morph image, allow me to either clarify or muddy the water here, depending on your reaction to these new manipulations.




Of the two, which seems the more reasonable interpretation? Is it clearer now which message the creator intended? Or can the image be used equally well to convey both messages? What does this tell you about the power of images? What does it say about the power of language to frame how we experience what we see?

In Class Exercise

In a single paragraph, as a Reply to this post, argue for the effectiveness of one or the other of the static image “posters” above. Assume that your reader is looking at the posters and convince her that one does a better job than the other of communicating its message. (Time Limit: 10 minutes)

30 Responses to Visual Rhetoric—Static Image

  1. runnerd4 says:

    I think that the new boss (brown image) is the most effective. The images show a strong similarity between Bush and Obama. The one who is trying to show a change is not very effective because of the similarities shown. I think that the creator intended the 2nd message. I think they can be used well for both messages,but better for the brown image. This shows how flexible images can be, as they can be used for many meanings. The language that goes along with them is extremely important because it can almost entirely skew the way that you view the images. I first viewed this a simple representation of the transition of power, but now the brown image message makes more sense.

  2. thecommoncase says:

    The first poster leaves a positive and hopeful message to Americans. It can be inspiring to people of color living in America to see an African American president, which creates even more positivity in the nation. Meanwhile, the other poster has a bitter and pessimistic tone. Also, the second poster doesn’t even make sense. Bush was republican while Obama is a democrat, so clearly there is going to be some change.

  3. clementine102 says:

    I think that the first poster that says “Finally, a leader for all Americans” is the most effective because when reading it, it gives the reader hope that America will get better. Meanwhile, the second one implies that Americans need to settle for Obama rather than choosing him. It also implies that this new president isn’t anything special and won’t do anything differently than what Bush did in his presidency. The first poster also makes the reader comfortable that the new president is already making change in the world that we live in.

  4. oaktree1234 says:

    I believe that the two posters use the image equally well. They both utilize the transition from bush to obama to convey their own point of view. After seeing these two posters, I’m impressed by how much a caption can change the intended meaning of an image. Without the captions, I would never had gotten these messages from the image.

  5. Nimadhury says:

    I would say that the first image is more effective at relaying its message. The transition from Bus to Obama seems to say, “this is what we’ve been waiting for”. I believe it elicits a more positive message than the second image by alluding encouragement to the people of America.
    In comparison, the second image is suggesting that we’ve recycled the old boss into a new one and that the people of America should still believe they still have a chance. This message didn’t resonate well with me because it’s suggesting that the “old boss” wasn’t good. Thus, why would I want a reincarnation of someone who I’ve felt wasn’t a good boss?

  6. bigblue821 says:

    I believe that the static image is especially effective for one version of the poster, more so than the other. The image seems to work best with the hopeless poster. The blending of the two presidents really does get the opinion across that all politicians are the same under the facade. The image doesn’t work as well with the “change has already started” poster because it seems tasteless. It doesn’t feel like the image is driving home the same message as the poster. The poster is saying something hopeful for the future and at the same time showing an image that is bringing up the past and the former president. I do understand how the image can be effective for both, but is seems to be more effective with the negative poster.

  7. cfriery says:

    Quite frankly, I find both of these images equally effective. They say that a picture alone can speak 1000 words, and I find this to hold true. There are a lot of interpretations for this image, and both captions create polarizing arguments about the new and the old. The first image leaves Americans hopeful and invigorated for their new president whereas the latter, not so much.

    It is quite astonishing how it only takes a few words to create an argument or form an opinion on something.

  8. jeffbezos123 says:

    I personally think that you could use this image for both posts. I personally belieive that, the blue one works better. In the image you see how there is a smooth change of power when they are diffrient people coming from opposite parties. The color change in background shows that even with them not being on the same side of politics they could make the transition work. In the brown statement I don’t think that it makes sense stating that he is the same as the old boss. I know that Bush was a Republician and Obama was a Democrat, so they both have opposite views on things.

  9. cardinal7218 says:

    The brown image might be more negative, but it is more effective. The way that one president morphs into the next suggests that they are the same entity that merely changes physical form. When I first looked at the picture without any captions, it wasn’t the beginning and end images that stood out to me, but the middle image where their faces were completely combined. That visual showed that the two presidents weren’t as different as we might think. People belonging to various political parties tend to think the president belonging to their party is a great leader and the president belonging to the opposing party is ineffective or even evil. The truth is likely more muddled than that. For example, some democrats and younger people seem to idol-worship Obama and long for his term back, but I think there are ways where he wasn’t so different from Bush. I think if one were to look into everything Obama did, they’d find some surprising truths about Obama’s term that would oppose the image they’d created for him. Politicians aren’t as different as we want to think they are.

  10. profs22 says:

    I think the the brown image is the most effective. It forces the reader to face the ugly truth. That we as Americans are manipulated into thinking we have a choice in who is are president when really each one is the same as the last. I think the morphing image is a good representation for this statement because it shows how both presidents are actually very similar and there is really no change.

  11. rowanstudent24 says:

    I believe each of this images are equally effective just because it shows an opinion from a different view of the argument. The image has a lot of power since it can be shown in 2 different ways. One image agrees with one part of the argument and the other agrees with the other part of the argument. After seeing the image with 2 different captions it makes the image that much more powerful and makes it very political as well.

  12. SmilingDogTheProfWants says:

    The leader for all America poster is just a better-designed poster that feels appealing to look at, the blue is comforting and the red draws your attention and the message is nice. The meet the new boss declares that your impact doesn’t matter regardless of the fact that it is most likely meant that you voted for the wrong party, it is declared that you are simply “thinking you have a choice” and as such provides a negative aspect. Though the effectiveness of the posters would depend on your view of the presidency, the negative one makes more sense to blend the image because it the image appears as a blend or mixing of the 2, whereas it could have looked like a progression of an idea (the image shifts from Bush to Obama with a little more context to it) and that idea is continuing with the new president.

  13. Nancet says:

    I believe both of these pictures are equal. The first message is more effective. In the second picture, it says, ‘meet the new boss same like the old boss”. It shows how both of the presidents are very similar. Both of these pictures have different messages. The brown image would be more effective.

  14. cucumberlemonadee says:

    i think the both posters i are equally effective. While the first one is optimistic about the new president, the second is more negative however both their messages are important. The first poster is inspiring to people of color that they have a person of color in office. While the second poster is entailing the similarities between the Presidents and how nothing will change.

  15. shadowswife says:

    I am a bit unsure about how this image represents either message because I feel like there could be a better message behind it; however, if I had to make a decision, I think the first one represents the image a little better. I understand that the point of both images is supposed to be over-exaggerated since it is propaganda, but the second poster bothers me the most because of the way they negatively claim that the presidents are the same when both look nothing alike and assume the new president will make the same mistakes as the other. The first poster at least mentions the transition in a different president which suits how this image transitions from Bush to Obama. The message does have a negative aspect, yet seems to be more optimistic because they imply that there might be a change in presidents.

  16. gooferious says:

    I believe that the first poster (the blue one) is the more effective poster. I believe this because, it truly does show the people who view it that change is possible. Times are changing, more ideologies are coming to light and being accepted. The fact that Obama was our nation’s first black president was a huge win for all minorities in America; it showed that we as a society can be open to change and be open to new opportunities and leadership.

  17. l8tersk8ter says:

    I think the second portrayal of the image is more effective. This one says that even though the person in power is changing they are essentially the same. I think the picture better portrays this message than the one about finally having a leader for all. In the image the faces of the two Presidents merge. In the middle image it is a halfway point with half Obama and half Bush. This amplifies their similarities, which I think is an important aspect. As the pictures merge there is an unspoken comparison between them. I think the comparisons that show similarities works more towards portraying the message that they are the same. The new boss is like the old boss.

  18. mhmokaysure says:

    In terms of effectiveness, I believe that this eerie similarity in the transition between the pictures of the two presidents better supports the second caption’s image. Although the first caption shares a more positive outlook, the similarity in the images fails to support the idea of drastic change occurring. In the second, however, the almost identical photographs merging into a “person” who could be either president effectively supports the caption’s claim that there’s a new boss but nothing is going to change.

  19. dayzur says:

    At first I thought this image was just for aesthetic purposes but when given a caption or some sort of text to display a message, then the whole effect of it changes. I think that the first one represents the image better than the second as it basically showing the transition of Bush out of office and Obama coming in as a positive thing. After this text was added the reasoning behind the image becomes much clearer and shows that there is a purpose behind it and not just for aesthetic purposes. It really shows that an image is a thousand words, depending on the person. I didn’t see the full effect of this image at first without a caption but to someone else this can truly mean something so much larger as we see when the captions are added. Not to mention the fact that the language used can completely change the tone of the same image from a positive thing to a negative thing.

  20. wafflesrgud22 says:

    I believe that both posters could work and are effective in their message. However, I believe the blue one makes the most sense and portrays a stronger message. The blue one is strongest in my opinion because it fades from an old president to a new one, by having a complete change in not only administration, but in parties. If the sentiment of the brown poster were true and as effective, then why does it ultimately fade into a new person (Obama)? Maybe for the heading of the brown poster, to make it more powerful, it should fade BACK into Bush (so Bush to Obama back into Bush).

  21. BabyGoat says:

    I think both images have the same amount of impact, they are just opposites. One is positive and the other is negative. I think it just depends on how the reader themselves interprets both. I personally think the first picture is to show equality and representation for all people. And the second one is to just say that no matter who is in office, everything is the still the same and these people are just puppets. I think the power of images holds a lot of value because the colors, the word choice, and the font all give off a certain emotion.

  22. pardonmyfrench13 says:

    Of the two images I think the positive blue message is the most effective and reasonable. The image shows a large change from president to president. To me it would be clearer what I believed the author intended but that might just me be interpreting it as I believe. Someone with different views might not see it the same way. The image can be used to convey both messages, it just depends on your headspace and how each individual sees things. This tells you that the power of images is strong and that its up to the reader to interpret things how they want. The power of language along with the image is also strong because that allows viewers to get a mindset about something being portrayed to them positively or negatively. The first image makes the most sense because it is showing the transition of president with bright colors and a positive slogan that change exists now. The second poster I do not believe is as effective because its obvious a change will occur due to a switch in political parties.

  23. akidfromakron says:

    I think that the first image is more effective. It leaves the reader with a sense of hope, rather than a sense of hopelessness that I believe the second picture emits. While looking at the first picture, it makes one feel as if things can really get better, and that Obama might be the person they need to do that, which is something that I think most people would want to get behind. However, the second image has a much more negative tone, saying how we should “Keep thinking we have a choice”, showing how they believe it is not up to us what happens.

  24. gabythefujoshi18 says:

    Of the two, which seems the more reasonable interpretation? Is it clearer now which message the creator intended? Or can the image be used equally well to convey both messages? What does this tell you about the power of images? What does it say about the power of language to frame how we experience what we see?

    The brown poster(the New Boss) one I would say is the most effective and seems to be the more reasonable interpretation. The morphing image implies more that there isn’t much difference between the two presidents. The fact that one could easily change(or morph) into the other one makes the argument that George Bush and Barack Obama won’t be bring change to the country, that they are both no different from one or the other. While this image can be interpreted in a more positive light(blue poster), the blue conveys more the message of lack individuality and displays an obvious similarity. The language used in the poster further amplifies the more negative outlook, especially with the line “Same as the old boss.” Overall, the message has greater impact in the more negative approach and is much more effective.

  25. corinnebuck1219 says:

    Both images and phrases are eye opening, that being said negativity is not always the best. When watching the news, theres constantly always political battles, so to hear something nice like “finally a leader for all americans” is kinda refreshing. Its very soothing to hear there could possibly be a president who stands for us all, so I then choose the blue picture.

  26. bluntwriting88 says:

    The bottom picture is decisively better. Both show an ‘isomorphism’ between Bush and Obama. That is to say, you can readily go from Bush to Obama or Obama to Bush by the way the photo was constructed. The first idea stemming from this is clearly that they are one in the same as Bush became Obama. To suggest they are different as in the top photo disregards the fact that in the image bush is smoothly turning into Obama or vice versa. Moreover, it is difficult to draw the line ‘where’ Bush exactly begins to turn into ‘Obama’. The implications of the second image is therefore superior achieving its aim.

  27. sunshine2818 says:

    When it comes the message, and how effective it is, I think it depends on what kind of a person you are. I tend to see the world as a glass half full, I would see the first image to be more effective. I don’t think that the two images can express the same message, however both messages can be effective to different people in different ways. This shows that the power of words can be more powerful then the power of images.

  28. comicdub says:

    I can’t really come up with a solid reason why, but for some reason I believe that the second poster, the brown one, is more effective. I myself am not into politics in the slightest, so this could be why I can’t put a real reason as to why I think one is more effective than the other but, like I previously stated, if I had to chose I would say the second poster is more effective.

  29. pizzaplanet323 says:

    I believe the image stating that the presidents are going to be the same is the more reasonable interpretation. It seems the picture is more for negative reasons. Since it is morphing their faces its trying to say that they are going to be similar in some type of way. Images have an amazing power of making us feel things and making things come to life. They can manipulate you in certain ways both negative and positive ways and its all interpreted different by every person. That being said it can change everyones view based on how it makes them feel and what they take from it.

  30. 612119d says:

    The brown image is most impactful for me. In a way in kind of scares me and kinda of remind me of a conspicacy therory. The first one reminds me of an America ad and is more positive. I think the negative image will always win because people like to see the world be bad.

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