Rhetoric is the the art of using communication in an effective and persuasive manner to influence the thoughts and actions of others.

Its heavily used with images in advertising, so I thought it would be nice to share with you this information on this series of blogs.

This first blog will address general aspects of Rhetoric and the Identity Relations.


In order to emphasize the meaning of an image one can use four semiotic operations,

Addition, Suppression, Substitution, Exchange


You can use five different relations to alter the message,

Identity, Similarity (Form and Content), Difference,

Opposition (Form and Content). False Homologies (Ambiguity and Paradox).

This forms a matrix of Relations and Semiotic Operations.

Sounds complicated at first, but is easy when we go down to real examples.

Let us start with Identity:


Identity is about the same visual element.

This visual element can be added, suppressed, substituted or exchanged as we will see in the following.


© Khz

The Addition of Identity is called Repetition and is the repetition of the same visual element on the same or on a group of images.

Largely used, its an effective way to emphasize the importance of the repeated element such as on this image that emphasizes many aspects, happiness, agility, youth, flexibility, you got it.

Its an effective way to emphasize some aspects, for example, the large number of wheels of a truck might help to emphasize its length.


The Suppression of Identity is called Ellipsis.

When you suppress something you may give an enigmatic quality to your images and it might be an invitation to the viewer become more involved.

Black and white images suppress colors, for instance.

This image is black and white and the tight framing suppresses the face of the model.

This helps you focus on the lines of the shadows and make you wonder what the face of the model looks like.

© Iofoto
You can check on this other image of the same model, is she what you thought she would look like?

For me I had a totally different face on my head.

The first image suggests, is she happy, is she in love, is she sexy, the second also suggests, but other things, what is she thinking about (or whom?),...


© Iofoto
This is named Hyperbole in traditional Rhetoric.

You take a visual element and emphasize it by changing its size related to the others.

Usually people think of having something big, but smaller also makes its statement.

Both images here show the two types of substitutions.


© Vukx
This is named Inversion in traditional Rhetoric.

You take a visual element and emphasize it by inverting it.

When two images are together, like of the two girls at right, the effect is even stronger due to the comparison.

Well, thats all there is to Identity, next blog will be about Similarity, I hope you like it and share with me your experiences with Rhetoric and your images.

Photo credits: Brunoil, Darren Baker, Iofoto, Bora Ucak, Vuk Vukmirovic, Winterling, Yuri_arcurs.

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