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Five Major Points From Current Debate on Visual Culture According to Gillian Rose


Throughout our lectures, we have been reading about Gillian Rose, who has a clear definition of what an image is. In his scholarly work, Gillian identified five essential elements that clearly describe how images work at any given time. Remember, this visual culture fully describes how various images work. Gillian Rose is one of the leading prominent scholars who has given out five clear elements on how various images work. Throughout this essay, we will identify the five elements of how the images work according to Gillian and, more so, give the impact of these elements(Rose, 2022). This will therefore involve giving out various examples that line with various elements as they are picked and noted by Rose. For the image to perform its work at any given time, some of the elements must be possessed by the image, which makes it able to pass any given message. Remember, images are primarily used in the artwork, as indicated by Rose, and they convey given information that forms their essential work. Therefore, the following are some of the image elements that make it perform its work at any given time, as highlighted by Gillian.

The agency of images

Images have a characteristic or the element of possessing agencies. According to Gillian, these characteristics make the image change beliefs, behaviours, and, more so, the perception of the individuals. In line with this, images are described as not being a passive object, and they help various individuals to bring about the idea of understanding the world. In most cases, images are used, for example, in public or social media. Also, they can get used in political life. There is some vital information that is passed at this particular hour. If, for example, it is a social media, the images used may be for advertisement purposes (Rose, 2021). In such cases, these particular images possess various agencies that make it possible to change the behaviour, beliefs, and, more so, the customers’ perception at any given time. For example, social media is advertising particular goods produced and released by any given company. When coming up with this specific image for advert purposes, social media should include some of the agencies that will help the image change beliefs, perceptions, and, more so, the behaviour of the individuals hence performing their actual functions. Another example is when social media uses viral images and memes, especially on social media platforms, which shows that images can be used to shape the opinions of various individuals at any given time and enhance communication.

Politics of presentation

Based on this element, Gillian argues that the political culture or, instead, the presentation of the image at any given time can be used to challenge social hierarchies and, more so, social structures. Due to this feature, the idea is in a position to perform its function ultimately. For example, examining how various groups are presented in social media during the process of advertisement can be used to examine more on dynamics and various presentations. Images must have a political presentation or how various aspects are viewed to perform their intended function or work thoroughly. This commonly happens when there is an advertisement process that is taking place on any given social media platform. Another example of the politics of presentation is when one analyzes various visual presentations of marginalized communities. This is commonly analyzed, especially in the news media, which uses the criteria of investigating the stereotypes that are actually perpetuated by those particular images and, more so, reveal their biases.

Materiality and mediation

Rose Gillian argues that images are used not only as visual presentations but also as objects with particular affordances and qualities. This shows that an image should not necessarily be used as a visual presentation. How individuals think of the images depends on how these particular images are consumed, distributed, and produced (Merriman, 2018). The point to do with the mediation of the image as an element means much about how individuals view the use of the image at any given time. For example, one may consider the difference between the image viewed under a digital screen and that which is experiencing a photograph on a physical print. In this case, every image provides different tactile dimensions and differences in sensory.

The Role of Context

To correctly use the image at any given time, one must use the images that best fit with the context line. Rose argues that, for images to perform their work best, one must be able actually to use them in line with their correct context. Usage of the image in line with their context is a crucial activity as this helps individuals correctly interpret any given image corresponding with the information being passed. For example, let us say it is an advertisement of any good by any given company through social media. In this case, social media should use the product image to carry out this activity (Degen, 2018). This is because this product image lines with the activity under the advert or the context. In most cases, individuals should therefore use images that line with the context to make the images perform their essential functions or do their work correctly. Another example is the museum exhibition that shows the individual’s artwork in a significant visual context.

Visibility and invisibility

Rose argues that using images in any given context can increase the visibility or reduce the visibility of the aspect under presentation. Two main factors influence this aspect which includes social factors and, more so, cultures. This aspect comes out especially when using social media images to illuminate or brand visualization of the body parts. One may opt to make the body parts appear or look more beautiful in a way which may render the body parts to be stigmatized or relatively invisible.


As discussed, five visual cultures help the image or which are more important for the images to perform their functions. This includes; visibility and invisibility, the role of the context, materiality and mediation, politics of presentation, and the agency of the images. These are, therefore, the five elements of visual cultures that Gillian Rose views to be of more importance and which thoroughly explain how images work.


Degen, Monica, Caitlin DeSilvey, and Gillian Rose. “Experiencing visualities in designed urban environments: learning from Milton Keynes.” Environment and Planning A 40.8 (2018): 1901-1920.

Merriman, Peter, et al. “Landscape, mobility, practice.” Social & Cultural Geography 9.2 (2018): 191–212.

Rose, Gillian. “Visual methodologies: An introduction to researching with visual materials.” Visual methodologies (2022): 1–100.

Rose, Gillian. Doing family photography: The domestic, the public and the politics of sentiment. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2021.


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