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The image below (see fig.1.) is an advertisement for luxury air travel aimed at the female traveller. Following Barthes scheme (Barthes, 1977) the first message in this image is linguistic i.e. the text that overlays it. The words ‘me-time’, indulgent’, ‘gourmet’ ‘dine’ (as opposed to ‘eat’), ‘First Class’, ‘cuisine’ and ‘exclusive’ all combine to convey luxury. The literal (‘denoted’) image is of a woman eating from a plate while sitting in a cramped space. However, the image’s third message – the symbolic, cultural or connoted (Barthes, 1977) – attempts to match the text in the conveying the sense that the woman in the picture is experiencing a moment of sublime self-indulgence.

Light shines from the left of the frame and is slatted as if shining through a blind – this gives the impression that the space occupied is only a sheltered, private part of a much larger, well lit area from which the woman has momentarily withdrawn for the advertised ‘me-time’.

The woman sits with what appears to be a dressing table to her left – at the front is a small semi-spherical mirror with an array of small lights, behind this is a larger screen/mirror with indistinct images, perhaps a video screen. On the right of the table is a small bed-side type light with classical lampshade, all connoting the restfulness and function of a home dressing/bed room or boudoir.

Looking now to directly in front of the sitting woman on the far right of the frame the imagery changes somewhat — the hinged lid of a drinks cabinet lies open, its mirrored underside reflecting the contents. The reflections in this mirror combine with the image of the cabinet contents leading to visual confusion, the impression is given of an open jewellery or treasure box. Here, the colour red (from a liquid in a bottle) adds to the impression. The accent colour red is dominant in the image overall (the food on the plate has two instances, the drink on the ‘vanity’ table, the woman’s lipstick, and the distant indistinct cabin windows. Red could be said to connote passion, desire and love which fits with the self-indulgent theme of the advertisement. Additionally red matches the logo of the airline in the lower right hand side of the image.

The imagery connotes the level of luxury and self-indulgence that awaits travellers when they choose this particular airline.

Figure 1.



Barthes, Roland (1977) ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ In: Wells (ed.) The Photography Reader. New York: Routledge. pp. 114-129