An image has the ability to convey something differently to every person. What is known as the ‘signifiers’ of the image are what you see – what makes up the image. The ‘signified’ is where the image changes and where meaning is put to the image by the viewer.
Take this image for example:
The signifiers of the image are two giraffes, and in the background is the city of Sydney. At the forefront of the image is Taronga Zoo’s logo and name. The colours in the image are vibrant; bright blue and luscious greens. The giraffes are the focal point of the image, at the front and drawing your eye to them with their unusual place in a backdrop of a city. What we get from the signifiers is the understanding that the two giraffe’s are at Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia.
But what connotations do audiences take away from this image?
Is it the joy of seeing such unique creatures so close to somewhere you know?
Is it the excitement to go visit a zoo that offers wonderful animals such as giraffe’s so close to the city itself?
Is it the feeling of disappointment, anger, frustration or upset at the idea of these animals being put into a place they don’t originally come from?
The audiences’ view will be shaped by their context, knowledge, values and beliefs.
The emotion and connotation that you take away from this text will be dependent on a range of things, including your view on zoos in general, your education and knowledge on the practice and keeping of giraffe’s (and possibly other animals) at Taronga Zoo, your opinion on the animals themselves and whether they interest you enough to visit the Zoo etc.
Whether you believe that Zoos and in particular Taronga Zoo are helping the conservation and understanding of Giraffe’s and therefore view the text with a positive, uplifting perspective or you believe that Zoo’s are cruel, unjust and damage the animal’s wellbeing and therefore view the text from a negative, frustrated perspective, this is dependent on you, your experiences and the ideals you have.
So, even though the signifiers of the image are the same for every person that sees it, what is signified to you could be completely different to what is signified to someone else, demonstrating that texts are not linear and they carry more than one meaning.