Analysis of Oliviero Toscani’s “Tongues” Photo for United Colors of Benetton

1362 WordsNov 21, 20116 Pages
Visual Communication – Individual Assignment Student: Loredana Patricia Pădureanu Analysis of Oliviero Toscani’s “Tongues” Photo for United Colors of Benetton The picture chosen for analysis is one taken by Oliviero Toscani for a United Colors of Benetton campaign. The picture depicts three children – one African-American, one Caucasian and one Asian – all sticking their tongues out, from where the name of the advertisement – “Tongues”. This campaign for Benetton was launched in February 1991 and it was highly controversial. For example, “this image was deemed "pornographic" and subsequently withdrawn from display in Arab countries, where the depiction of an internal organ is prohibited” (United Colors of Benetton, 2005). This…show more content…
Secondly, another theoretical approach considered here is that of semiotics. According to the same author, semiotics is “the study of cultural sign processes, signs and meanings” and it is “of value to visual culture studies because it enables different kinds of signs to be distinguished and named, and because it makes possible a systematic analysis of images” (Walker & Chaplin, 1997). By using these theoretical frames, we expect to find out what parts of the author’s background determined the composition of this picture, and if there are any unconscious thoughts of the author that might have determined the contents of the picture. Moreover, we are interested in the different meanings that all the elements in this advertisement have as well as the way they influence our perception of the picture. On the one hand, from the perspective of expression, that is the author’s intentions, several concepts emerge. According to Julian Bell, expression is the “translation of invisible states of mind into the visual and that the focus or source of these invisible states of mind is the painter” (Barnard, 2001). So, it is possible to interpret the Benetton advertisement by considering the author’s emotions, or even his biography as a photographer. Oliviero Toscani is the author of this picture and he is the “son of a photo-journalist of the Corriere Della Sera”, as it is stated on his website. He has studied photography and design in

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