Roland Barthes 1967 essay Rhetoric of the Image contains two concepts describing the effect that text has on the meaning of an image.
Anchor – text controls the meaning of the image
Relay – text has an equal status to the picture. Used to create a fuller reading of the image that allows for ambiguity and broader interpretations. More akin to post-modernism’s view of narrative.
To illustrate how powerful text can be in contextualising images and providing meanings I have made several examples using the above image taken from the Hillsborough disaster. For 27 years families of the dead have fought a long and arduous battle against the establishment to clear the names of the Liverpool fans. This week it was ruled that they were unlawfully killed on that day in 1989.
The actual text used by independent news website accessed on 30/04/2016 uses the anchor text
“An injured fan gets help on the pitch, as disaster engulfs the FA Cup semi-final match on 15 April 1989.”
It could have used the anchor text: “A single policeman is on hand to help injured fans in the absence of sufficient emergency services personnel”
The same image was used by the Times in 2012 as part of an article about the growing claims of unlawfulness against the South Yorkshire Police. The words used by the Times relay a different connotation, “Why the survivors can never forget”. This questioning of what went on that day in 1989 was the narrative which became the Liverpool families legitimate fight for justice.
From the political climate of the day it was more likely to have relayed: “Why did so many Liverpool fans turn up drunk and without tickets?”
Brown, D. The Times article from 13/10/2012