What Are We Really Seeing ?

1405735419126_1405538737267_kanye-west-gq-magazine-september-2014-style-01 So what can any single person get from this image? First we can see a man. He’s wearing olive and beige clothing and brown boots. The big ‘GQ’ in the bottom left means maybe the image is owned by a company. But is that all there is to this image?

Is that really all we are seeing ?

I want to talk a bit about a concept we are learning in BCM 110, Semiotics, or the study of signs. From what I can gather the above mentioned description are the signifiers, the denotations or the extremely literal meaning of the image. But what I wanted to further explain are the connotations of the image.

The image is Kayne West, a world-renowned rapper and arising fashion designer starring in a cover photoshoot for ‘GQ’ an American menswear fashion magazine. The ‘GQ’ magazine issue was published late last year, and featured multiple shots of Mr West in various high-end fashion clothing. But is that all there really is to that image? We can look at the clothing itself first. He’s wearing dark green and light grey clothing, colour palette wise its extremely reminiscent of military uniforms and evokes that sense of functionality over being aesthetically pleasing. The cargo pants, clunky tan boots and military jacket similar to the M-65 field coat enunciate this stereotype. However if we look into the context within the image we can find its far from practical. From the caption on the ‘GQ’ site we can see that the clothes are expensive, Balmain shirt costing a modest $1055 and Bastian pants a mere $575, banishing away any thoughts of practicality in what he is wearing. For me personally wearing such an expensive outfit would only fit into specific social contexts as well, probably within rich suburban areas of major cities. I would be puzzled to find someone wearing anything similar in rural areas such as Wollongong.

Second we can take into account Mr West’s context within the fashion industry. After the APC x Kayne collaboration released at the time which may or may not have been as well received among critics (the $120 plain white tee comes to mind) this photoshoot allowed him to promote his own self image within the fashion industry and give him more publicity. Also this photoshoot wasn’t for any no-name magazine, but ‘GQ’ which has done photoshoots with many other big-shot celebrities such as Ryan Gosling, Orlando Bloom and Jessica Alba.

So what I wanted to reiterate is that there are connotations behind every image. If we look at the context behind it, and the people personified, we can maintain a completely different interpretation of any image. Another interesting idea is that everyone has different interpretations of the denotations and connotations of an image. Maybe someone who isn’t familiar with Kayne West would see the picture vastly differently, the same as someone who works in the fashion industry or serves as an editor for ‘GQ’ or another big menswear magazine.

So what are we really seeing?

And are we all seeing the same thing?


http://www.gq.com/style/201408/the-4-step-kanye-west-guide-to-fashion#slide=6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_on_the_cover_of_GQ

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