Visual Rhetoric: New York Times Wedding Pages Photography Analysis by Emily Bloom

For a handout, download the PDF document outlining this assignment.

After reading Timothy Noah's article, "Abolish the New York Times Wedding Pages!" from slate.com, students searched nytimes.com to find wedding photographs from the website. Students, working with partners, analyzed the images and posted a one-sentence thesis sentence to Blackboard regarding the visual image. This assignment was designed to introduce students to visual rhetoric and prepare them to develop analytic thesis sentences in their upcoming writing assignments.

Noah’s article responds to the decision by New York Times editors to include same- sex marriages in the wedding section. He argues that, rather than making the wedding column more inclusive, the section needs to be abolished altogether because it represents an elitist institution that has no place in contemporary journalism.

After discussing the article, students looked at the visual rhetoric in a wedding photograph they chose from the website and considered what the photograph depicts and why the New York Times may have included it in the wedding section.

Students began the activity by discussing the image in partners and determining whether or not the image has an argument. Previously, students had read the introduction to Everything's an Argument and had some experience analyzing visual arguments. Students discussed the rhetorical strategies of the image and then wrote a one-sentence thesis sentence for a rhetorical analysis of the image. They posted this sentence to a discussion board on Blackboard. Following class, I wrote responses on Blackboard to these thesis sentences giving feedback for things to consider in writing thesis sentences for their upcoming visual rhetoric assignment.

Example Thread:

Partner Group B: “Christina Welykyj and Brian Ante's wedding takes place in a fancy church in an intimate setting, which emphasizes a well to do couple following a traditional wedding ceremony.”

Instructor Response: “Really good start for a thesis-- the next step would be explaining why the image "conveyed a strong sense of the importance of religion and family in their wedding." What values does it appeal to and what audiences might be receptive to these value arguments? There is a section in Everything's an Argument on value arguments and the other stasis questions if you wanted to do more with this. However, you could also argue about value from the point of view of logical arguments or emotional arguments. Is it appealing to a shared value as a form of common sense (shared value systems) or as an emotional appeal to a strong feeling of spirituality? Then of course you want to describe how the image conveys these arguments.”

(Image Credit: Laura Pedrick for The New York Times)

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