Module 4 : Contextual Studies

The contextual studies unit is going to cover Moving Image, Journalism and Photography.


During our first lesson of contextual studies – photography our tutor, began with a team building exercise in which we had to create a full length portrait montage of a person with our mobile phones.

As a team we discussed that it would be best if at first we established how many mobile phones are available and also establish which body parts we are going to take a photo of. After established such matters, we placed the phones in the shape of a full length portrait and then started to take phone by phone to take photos of the body parts established before. Putting the phones one by one back in its place with the photo taken displayed, the full length portrait came to life.


During this ice breaking exercise we learnt more about our colleagues and since we worked as a team, the awkwardness of meeting a new person was definitely put to the side and actually bonded all together. In fact after that lecture we students stayed all together and talked about ourselves.

The following list consists of movies that discuss journalism:  

1) When journos go bad

2) Just the facts, ma’am

3) No, copy editors do not get their own offices

4) A newsman falls in love

5) Absence of Malice

6) TV news people are people, too

7) Inspiring budding reporters everywhere

8) A mess in New Mexico

9) Classic comedy

10) Colonia 

Theories about Semiotics:


Semiotics is the study of signs and how one can transfer the understanding of sign into meanings. With the use of semiotics one is able to look at a piece of art and find the meaning or the message being portrayed through the art piece. Another word for Semiotics is Visual Literacy.

(Bibliography:Ltd, S. (2011, April 25). Semiotics explained. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from Citation:(Ltd, 2011)


Ferdinand De Saussure:

Ferdinand De Saussure was a linguists and a philosopher who came up with a very important theory with regards to semiotics. Ferdinand suggests that one should look at an image as a sign that communicates meanings. In his philosophy a sign is divided into two elements; the signifier  and the signified.

Signifier: The signifier is the actual physical object. For instance an actual tangible apple is considered as the signifier in Saussurean terminology.

Signified: The signified is an image or another type of interpretation of the signifier ie. the actual object. An example of this is a picture of an apple. Thus in Saussurean terminology if one encounters an image of an apple, even although with normal cultural norms he is intrigued to say; it is an apple, one must say that it is; an image of an apple.

An artist that also uses this terminology is Rene Magritte’ who painted the famous art piece of a pipe with a caption saying; ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ which translates to ‘This is not a pipe’ .

The Treachery of Images by Rene Magritte :

this is not a pipe.jpeg

With this example one can understand more over the theory of signs by Ferdinand De Saussure. The painting is that of a pipe, but it is not a pipe, it is an interpretation of a pipe thus it is an image of a pipe and not a pipe hence the quotation ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’.

Denotation:  This is when someone or an art piece refers to the actual thing.

Connotation: This is when the art piece itself brings upon various thoughts of other things upon the viewer. Example a picture of a hairball connotes the viewer with cats, cuddles, fair, play and so on.


Semiotics for beginners: Signs. (1981). Retrieved October 28, 2016, from Citation:(“Semiotics for beginners: Signs,” 1981)

Signifier and signified. (2002). Retrieved October 28, 2016, from Citation:(“Signifier and signified,” 2002)

Charles sanders peirce.jpg

Charles Sanders Peirce:

Charles Sanders Peirce is another philosopher who dealt with semiotics. Like De Saussure Peirce speaks about signs. Slightly different from De Saussure, Peirce divides signs into three categories which are; the sign , the interpretant and the object.

Sign: According to Peirce sign are again divided into three types;

Symbol:  The Symbol sign is when the relationship between the actual physical object and the sign is simply agreed upon culturally in societies. Most of the words are considered to be Symbols. An example of this;

The word egg is considered to be referring to an actual egg because it was set as a convention.

Icon: Iconic signs are signs which resemble directly the actual object. To keep the same example, the iconic sign of an actual egg would be a picture of an egg since it resembles the physical egg.

Index: Indexical sign are signs which are caused by something. For instance a wet street is caused by rain, therefore, the wet street is an indexical sign.

Visual Literacy: depends on the socio-historical aspect in order to be effective and fully comprehended. The term ‘Socio-Historical aspect’ suggested by the American philosopher Donald Davidson, refers to social cultures which are defined by the societies’ history, norms and values within a particular society. The socio-hitorical aspect effects individuals’ perspective when encountering an image, language and language games, painting and any source of art. For instance, if an individual who comes from a very religious culture encounters a rather abstract idea, art piece or language which opposes the religion he follows he might be offended or not comprehend it properly. Nonetheless, if an atheist who comes from an atheist background would understand the message behind the idea. Language is an ideal example, in Malta  very often people say ”Ħaq  għat-torok” translating ”f*** the turks”, this is because this phrase goes back to when Malta was being under attack by the Turkish fleet. Thus if a foreigner hears this phrase he would not understand why a Maltese citizen swears in that manner.


The narrative is titled; THE DEATH OF SOCIETY, In Memory of Life. This artistic production focuses on today’s societies and how technology and work is effecting human beings all over the globe. In a photograph exhibition, a series of photos will be presented and through the imagery of the photos, the lifeless society we are living in is going to be highlighted. The message behind the artistic pieces is to make the audience aware of how life is nowadays, and hopefully change lifestyles.

A magazine layout with the photos and artist’s thoughts will be published on the exhibition day. The exclusive magazine can be also purchased by order from the exhibition and signed after a Q&A.

Resource List :

  • Sketches of Photos
  • A set of photos
  • A powerpoint presentation for the pitching of the product
  • A script for the presentation
  • Description of photos
  • Printing of photos
  • Magazine Layout


  • Sketches – 20.11.2016
  • Photograph the photos – 21.11.2016 to 23.11.2016
  • Script making + presentation powerpoint – 24.11.2016
  • Description of photos – 25.11.2016
  • Magazine Layout – 26.11.2016
  • Presentation – 05.12.2016
  • Publication / Exhibition of Magazine – 09.01.2017

Planning/Script of presentation (pitching) : planning-presentation

Sketches of the photographs :

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Photos Captured:

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Powerpoint presentation for Pitching : presentation1

The Magazine Layout: thedeathofsociety1final

Identity :

  • Character
  • Looks
  • Culture
  • Childhood
  • History
  • Personality

Jacques Lacan:

Lacan came up with the concept of The Mirror Stage , he proposes that human infants pass through a stage in which an external image of the body produces a psychological response that gives rise to the mental presentation of an ” I ”.

When for the first time a child encounters his reflection and sees is it as an ” I ” and NOT as another person. When you look at the image of your body and you say ” that is me”. The human child sees a whole body which tends to be the ideal ” I ” , a perfect strong independent body. When in reality he is not because he is dependent on others an he still young, however when he encounters himself in a mirror that is not he feels.

This is the process of how human beings become an individual self, such process continues through out your whole life. A personal search for identity and since human beings are ever-changing this process is an on-going activity that we do unconsciously.

I think therefore I am – Decartes

There can be only one of you, and one of everyone, it is all about finding that one particular ” I ” that you belong to.



The project that I prepared for this unit named The Death of Society, included a theatrical presentation of the concept, along with a discussion and a magazine which is the final tangible product. I started out by doing the theatrical piece which is very interactive with the audience. The presentation started by telling the audience to turn on the flash light of their phone and point towards me. I turned off the lights and I performed various gestures that we experience in our every day life such as, busy people wondering around, talking to someone and they do not take notice of you but keep on surfing on their phones and so on. After the four gestures I directed a speech to the audience; telling them to turn of the lights. When they turned them off I told them that visually they cannot see anything, and in the same way if they turn off their phones they would not encounter the scenes they have scene. Then I introduced my magazine by saying that this project is named the death of society in memory of life that we ones had. The expression on the audience faces after the theatrical presentation was very satisfying since all I had before was only the idea and the script and did not know what reaction I will be having and it the message will come across. However the audience related to what they were seeing and the message went across perfectly.

After this along with the audience we viewed the magazine and I explained in more detail of the thought behind the project itself. Showing that in order to this project I had to brainstorm and think in a deep way about the life and the society we are living in. Then it was time for a question and answer session with the audience, in this session the presentation and the project itself (magazine) had a very good review.

When it comes to the negative comments I was told that the magazine might include too much typography and I agree with the argument they brought. The argument was that sometimes you have to leave it up to the artistic photos that were included in the magazine to send the message and not base in on the detailed text that explained the images presented, and I agree. Despite all this the reason for the text was because I was not confident enough to let photos do their job on their own.

What I suggest for future reference is to focus more on printing detail and be more confident about my work as to let it speak for itself. Having said this after having a first experience of presenting this project I analysed the potential of the project and the theatrical presentation and i intend to keep on working on this concept in order to organise an exhibition which can include the photos presented in the magazine set as an exhibition, afterwards the magazine could be sold. The exhibition could also include the theatrical presentation to introduce the project and the exhibition and even a question and answer session that will take the shape of a discussion.

All in all this unit had inspired me to express my opinions visually and even typographically in order to share my perspective of my experience of life. It inspired me to continue study and do more research personally, grow, contextualise and develop my ideas to be more serious and organised better, due to the experience I will gather from school.  After all this project could send a message to our society to go away with the social media inclined culture our society is facing and start living more, having a better society.