analysis

Phillywaterfront

PATCO in-depth analysis: Philadelphia Waterfront

This is easily the photo I’m most proud of out of the entire essay because it works so well on so many different levels. For this particular photo, I turned the motion blur off since my photos were already being filtered through the window’s rain-encrustedness.

There lies a certain level of symmetry in the photo between the sky and the water; if the image were flipped, they could both pass for one another, given their cloudiness. The depth of field effect also lends to its eye-catching nature. The crescent-shaped waterfront begins in the bottom left at the docks and a boat in view with three talls buildings not too far off for scale. And our eyes also naturally follow the “leading line” along where the water meets land/buildings and brings us to the five tall buildings aligned way in the background. And, lucky for me, the water wasn’t empty that day, and the two boats in the frame serve as balancing elements to the otherwise overbearing cityscape.

Interestingly, the waning landscape trailing off to the right edge of the photo serves so many purposes. Not only does it frame the water on this cloudy and rainy day, but it also frames the sky and the part of the city that is in view from everything else, bridging together and yet separating all these distinct elements. The diagonal lines overlaid on the left side (cityscape dynamism).

Above all else, I think, the photo comes together so nicely thanks to its adherence to the rule of thirds. If divided into the nine equal parts according to the rule, the divisions would appear over the prominent buildings on the vertical lefthand line, and the top horizontal line would cross the photo just where the skyline and the horizon meet. The righthand vertical line and the top horizontal line would intersect at the buildings in the background, and the bottom horizontal line would cut through the two boats on the water, lending a wonderful balance to everything. And, even if it was not by design (as I had no choice but to go over the bridge), the viewpoint also ties into the photo’s beauty. Taken from high above the Delaware River and far away to form the wrapping effect Philadelphia waterfront, I couldn’t have taken this shot (or at least gotten the same feeling from the same objects) from another perspective.

Mash-Up Reflection (Part Two)

Putting meaning into a video mash-up isn’t only easy, it’s inevitable. Two pictures, videos, words, or even sounds can’t be placed next to each other without altering each other’s meaning—or creating an entirely new meaning for matter. Effectively controlling the meaning—in a mash-up for instance—is the harder part. When making my mash-up, I wanted to really hit it home that scientific debate has no place in politics. And I implored some semiotic methods to do so:

At 2:05, Michelle Bachmann is standing before congress giving a speech. Following her at 2:07, Gary Busey appears giving his speech at the Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy. Understanding Sean Hall’s definition of intratextuality in This Means This, This Means That as “the internal relationship between different parts of the same work,” the viewer can see these relationships: both are standing behind podiums, making similar hand gestures to an audience.

Through the intratextual relationship between the two clips, the viewer can interpret that I am making some sort of comparison between these two. However, the comparison can take on heavier meaning if the viewer can recognize Gary Busey as a symbol of ‘crazy.’ Such an understanding of Busey would require the reader to not only know about his erratic behavior, but also of the popular understanding of him as crazy that would sustain his symbol-status as such.

Assuming the viewer is attuned to Busey’s symbolic qualities, the viewer can finally interpret the metaphor. A metaphor, as Hall defines it, is “an implied comparison between two similar or dissimilar things that share a certain quality.” If Bachmann=Busey, and Busey=Crazy, then Bachmann=crazy. Ultimately, this emerging metaphor acts to do one of two things effectively: introduce Bachmann is crazy to a viewer that might not know much about her (or thought otherwise), or reaffirm any of the viewer’s existing thoughts that she is crazy and show it in a new way.

I applied a good level of intertextuality to this mash-up. According to Hall, intertextuality is “how works of various kinds (e.g. books, paintings, sculptures, designs, advertisements, etc.) make reference—often in clever ways—to other works”. I did some reference of my own when I used a clip from Breaking Bad wherein Huell, a crooked lawyer’s henchman, falls onto a pile of money. Assuming a good amount of viewers have seen this show, they can know that the pile of money that Huell is falling onto is dirty money—obtained through selling methamphetamine and murder. Using the meaning that Breaking Bad’s producers have already created around this widely-known scene, I inserted it into my mash-up to add an important layer of meaning: dirty money fueling the religious and political attacks of science.

Now, that dirty money scene will influence what meaning is made in the gutter—or the space between two separate items (video clips in this case)—preceding and proceeding it. For instance, when juxtaposed to the scene of billionaire Charles Koch (:40), the gutter contains the following implications: the money that pumps into dark money groups like Americans for Prosperity is dirty itself. By themselves, these two clips probably wouldn’t suggest that much for my purposes—probably only facts and ideas that people already knew. Now, however, my viewer is able to see political funders like Charles Koch in a way that challenges their ethics not just politically, but morally. Ultimately, Koch’s lack of morality that I implied will carry into the greater point, politics and science, and suggest something new: dark money groups are funding anti-science politicians. Now, the issue isn’t just who is crazy or uninformed, but also corrupt.

I use the word “viewer” a lot in this reflection, so I should probably do some analysis of whom I’m speaking of and how they are interpreting my work. Obviously, this mash-up is very political, and in terms of American politics, is critically aimed at the Republican Party (Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin are all Republicans). Knowing this, I have to understand that different viewers may have different conceptions about what I’m saying. A conception, as defined by Hall, is a “thought” about something that can be very different from another’s due to “different information coded into the concepts that they use.” A person who regularly follows politics might have a different understanding of the clip I used of Mitt Romney, and know that was when he mocked President Obama for wanting to “heal the planet.” A person who doesn’t watch politics, however, might not know how loaded that clip was. I tried to set my mash-up so that people across different levels of contemporary political knowledge can follow my point. I did this by making sure I used clips of recognizable, high-profile politicians who are not only widely recognizable, but also whose agendas are clear. I believe doing this made my mash-up’s message accessible to a larger audience.