Students Explore Gap Between Image and Reality

Advertising’s impact on what is real is focus of visual communication competition

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Experts in communication and psychology have argued that advertising images impact and influence how people understand the world around them and can present a distorted view of reality. To illustrate this distortion, researchers and activists often present advertising with contrasting images, such as showing a newspaper spread on diamonds with photos of diamond miners in Africa. This concept is referred to as the juxtaposition of images.

In an effort to provide students with a broader understanding of the concept and its impact, a visual communication competition at Rochester Institute of Technology challenged competitors to analyze images found in advertising and juxtapose them with contrasting images depicting alternative ‘truths.’

“Juxtaposition of images is used to illustrate how advertising can distort reality and give false impressions,” notes Diane Hope, the Kern Professor of Communication at RIT and organizer of the competition. “Through this project students gained a better understanding of the often contradictory nature of advertising while also advancing their skills in visual communication analysis.”

Akilah Clark, a fourth-year advertising and public relations major who took first place in the competition, juxtaposed depictions of women in advertising with images of sex workers in Thailand to illustrate the wide dichotomy between how images of women are presented and how they are often treated in society.

“This competition gave students the opportunity to show both sides of a story even when the reality of both sides were incongruent,” adds Clark. “The Thailand sex-trade demonstration was significant to me because I believe young women should be especially careful on their travels aboad. Vacation sites are common places for predators to lurk.”

Additional honors went to Brittaney Brentzel, who won second place for her poster on the Simple Shoes company; and Carolynn Meader and Laura Kelley who shared third prize for their collaborative posters on coffee production. The competition was sponsored by the William A. Kern endowment.