Comparison of two contrasting images


'Whereas it is common place that for example, we have some idea what is involved in the act of walking, if only in general terms, we have no idea what happens during the fraction of as second when a person steps out. Photography with its devices of slow motion and enlargement reveals this secret. It is through photography that we first discover the existence of this optical unconscious just as we discover the instinctual unconscious through psychoanalysis'

Although Walter Benjamin has commented very correctly about the structure and analysis of an image, in that we know how to do something but it is the unconscious meanings behind the story and the image that are being shown, these parts of the image have greater depth and meaning as they can become under scrutiny. This essay of visual communication will look at two images of Marilyn Monroe and what story can be perceived as being told by the images.

Ferdinand De Saussure's (1983) diagram into the makeup of semiological decoding of images will play a big part in this essay, as it will discuss the meanings behind the two images, what they are trying to show and what they try to mean to the viewer. It will also see if these meanings are the same for both images. With this analysis we will be able to look in to the suggestion of 'celebrity', as ideas about celebrity have an effect on how the imagery has been fashioned and consumed by the viewer.

The first image has been chosen as it has to be one of the most iconic images of Marilyn Monroe's career. Marilyn Monroe embodied Hollywood glamour with an unmatched radiance and energy that infatuated the world. Even though she was a glamorous beauty with beautiful curves and a generous pout, Marilyn was further more than a '50's sex goddess'. Her perceptible helplessness and inexperience, in amalgamation with an innate sensuality, has endeared her to the global awareness. Marilyn conquered the age of movie stars to grow to be, without question, the most well-known woman of the 20th Century.

Firstly we need to know a little about Marilyn and her background and how she came to fame. Marilyn was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angele, to Gladys Baker. Gladys had been a motion picture cutter at RKO studios, but psychological troubles prohibited her from keeping the job and she was ultimately committed to a mental institution.

Norma Jeane spent the majority of her upbringing in foster homes and orphanages until 1937, when Norma Jeane moved in with family friend Grace McKee Goddard. Regrettably, when Grace's husband was moved to the East Coast of America in 1942, the couple couldn't find the money to take 16-year-old Norma Jeane with them. Norma Jeane had two options: return to the orphanage or get wed.

In 1942 Norma Jeane married her 21-year-old neighbour Jimmy Dougherty, whom Norma Jeane had been dating for six months. By all accounts Norma Jeane loved Jimmy, and they were happy together until he joined the marines and was sent to the South Pacific in 1944.

After Jimmy had left, Norma Jeane took work on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions factory in California. Quite a few months later, photographer David Conover saw Norma Jeane whilst taking pictures of women contributing to the war effort for a magazine. David couldn't believe his luck. David used Norma Jeane for the shoot and then began sending modelling jobs Norma Jeane's way. The camera loved Norma Jeane, and within two years she was a highly regarded model with many trendy magazine covers to her glory. Nonetheless, Jimmy's return in 1946 meant Norma Jeane had to formulate more choices, this time among her marriage and career.

Norma Jeane divorced Jimmy in June of 1946, and signed her first studio contract with Twentieth Century Fox on August 26, 1946. Soon after, Norma Jeane dyed her hair blonde and changed her name to Marilyn Monroe; this was after her grandmother's last name.

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