by Diana Weggler

“The more you know, the more you see.”
—Renowned English poet, novelist, and philosopher Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

From childhood, we are taught how to read stories, but most people are never taught how to read images. Domenic Screnci, EdD, professor of visual literacy in the instructional design program in the Graduate School of Education at UMass Boston, has devoted much of his career to precisely that: teaching people to read images like text, extracting meaning and value out of images as we do words.

On February 15, 2021, I participated in Dr. Screnci’s community webinar titled, “Six Perspectives to Consider When Analyzing Images.” Sponsored by PhotovoiceWorldwide, the two-hour webinar drew more than 40 participants from all over the globe. They included photographers, lawyers, professors, researchers, clinical providers, and many others.

In his presentation, Dr. Screnci introduced the work of Dr. Paul Martin Lester,* a Clinical Professor at the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication and a Professor Emeritus at California State University, Fullerton. The author of Visual Communication: Images with Messages, Lester has developed a framework for looking and thinking about images using six perspectives: The Personal, Historical, Technical, Ethical, Cultural, and Critical.

After introducing Lester’s model, Dr. Screnci addressed each perspective individually and in order. He explained the concept of visual literacy: the ability to notice and analyze the various visual elements of an image—composition, light, color, context, symbols, etc. Examining these elements through the lenses of Lester’s six perspectives allows a viewer to extract information and value from a photographic image that would otherwise go undiscovered. The framework’s six perspectives foster in-depth discussion around the messages the image is trying to communicate and the messages that are being received.

In addition, Dr. Screnci explained how developing one’s ability to delve more deeply into images with regards to how they are made and how they are being used allows one to be more purposeful as the creator of images, as well as in the use of images in one’s instruction or practice.

Following his presentation, our large group broke out into groups of three to gain experience in viewing an image from one or more of the six perspectives. Lively discussion within each group was then brought back to the larger group, followed by a Q & A.

In his conclusion, Dr. Screnci emphasized that the “Six Perspectives” framework is essentially a flexible one. “The adoption of the model will vary depending on your purpose and the purpose of the group you are working with.” Calling it “a process,” he noted that Dr. Lester’s model is also intended for individual use to help photographers understand why certain images work better than others and create more powerful images.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO EXTRACT MEANING FROM IMAGES.

PhotovoiceWorldwide is excited to announce that Dr. Screnci will be teaching an online course titled, Deep Seeing: The Power of Visual Communication, an interactive course taught in five, 2-hour sessions spread out over 15 days, beginning March 12 and ending March 26.

Diana Weggler is an editor with PhotovoiceWorldwide and has worked as a professional photographer for Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. You may reach her at diana@photovoiceworldwide.com.