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Do you know why you Relay?

The bad times will pass if I don’t blow them up into tragedies. The Al-Anon daily reminder handbook gives this as one day’s snippet of wisdom. Ever since a close friend of mine shared it with me, this quotation has resonated within my mind. While I struggle with something other than alcoholism in my family, my family did experience loss at the hands of cancer. I wanted to keep my collage for this assignment simple; I wanted to do as we discussed in class and let the image speak for itself. If you read my blog, you know that I lost my father to cancer. This is something I am reminded of every day. But I turn this negative experience into a positive future by working against the disease that changed my life. I will not let this blow up my life into a tragedy.
I turned this bad time of mine into something positive by getting a tattoo on my back. I used a self-taken picture of my tattoo within my collage acting as my quasi-linguistic message. There exist no words within this composite, but there is still a linguistic message. I made the artistic decision to crop out the words that surround my tattoo letting the image stand on its own. While not a word, though, ink still penetrates the image. There is permanence in words. My generation should know best that once you type something out and send it away, there’s no taking it back. Once you say something aloud, there’s no rebuttal. With something as eternal as a tattoo, there’s never an option to rewind and undo. It’s not a distinct linguistic message like Barthes discusses in his article “Rhetoric of the Image,” citing the presence of pasta as “Italianicity,” but the presence of ink on skin gives off the air of permanence and strength.
The coded iconic message, a second part of Barthes’ breakdown, is simply what the people viewing the photos take away from them. In the present situation, one would see a photo of a tattoo, two people dancing, and a cancer awareness ribbon in the corner. Juxtaposed within a blog about fighting cancer, one might gather that there was a loss or a struggle to fight. Tattoos are often symbolic of loss, memories, or something that resonates with the person who has chosen to create art on their skin. Following the definition of the coded iconic message being what one sees right off the bat, there might be the assumption that one of the figures in the base image, the father and daughter dancing, were lost to cancer. In today’s society, many associate the ribbon in the bottom left corner with disease. The nature of the tattoo is straight-forward as well. People see a shamrock and automatically assume Irish heritage or St. Patrick’s Day just as seeing pasta brings Italian food and hearty meals to mind. Together, the three give off the impression of loss, remembrance, and family just as the Panzani ad reminded us of freshness, delicious dinner, and “Italianicity.”
Finally, there is the non-coded iconic message. This non-coded message is the literal sense of the image at hand. There’s a tattoo, a man dancing with a younger woman, and a ribbon. Separate, these images don’t hold much significance. Barthes says that images are almost always surrounded and interpreted with societal impressions in mind. Together, they create a more meaningful significance because together everyone can formulate their own impression and take in the importance of a photograph.


"Tattoo" image by Kelly O'Grady
"Father/Daughter Dance" image by Susan Walsh
"Breast Cancer Ribbon" image by Yongjiet

Brief Description: 

I'm writing a blog about cancer. In this photo is my past, present and future. I will always have my father with me; in photos, in ink, and in my fight against a disease that affects so many in this world.


Interesting juxtaposition of the three images. I really like it.

Kelly, this makes me want to cry, not because I'm sad, but because of how strong you are! I love this image. The fact that you used your tattoo and a picture of you and your dad makes it really personal, and anyone that recognizes that will be really affected. The fact that most of the image is in shades of brown, and then the pink breast cancer ribbon is the only colorful thing right in the corner, makes it pop and emphasizes the cancer aspect, which makes your message more understood. I can't even find any other words to describe how much I love this. Really good job, Kelly.

I also wanted to add that I love how your dad's face is in the top leaf of the clover, and your face is on the leaf on the left. The placement of the photos is very well done! :)

i tried SO HARD to get that damn ribbon to be purple

This image is really great. I love how you combined the images together to form one solid, very meaningful image. The essay is really well written and very touching. Someone very close to me recently lost his father to cancer as well so I have seen first hand how something so tragic impacts someone's life. Overall I think you did a really good job on all aspects of the assignment.

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