The image above depicts Jorge Mario Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis, interacting with children. The quote juxtaposed with the picture reads, “And so I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.” The Pope is no stranger to viral remarks and technological savvy. He has spoken out about social issues, the economy, and other big picture and small pictures issues related to the current climate of the church. Because of this, it is not out of the question to believe that the Pope may have a quote repeated on the Internet like the quote above.
The position of the quote, overlayed on the picture, suggests that it was a phrase spoken by Pope Francis, and that it directly relates to the image directly at hand. The combination, then, seems to say that the Pope’s actions and reaching out to children is inline with the path that God has created for him. The quote takes on a confident and positive role, as the Pope is shown smiling and warmly embracing the children.
In reality, the full quote reads, “And so I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.” It was originally published in Chapter Two of Adolf Hitler’s autographical book and exploration into political ideology titled Mein Kampf. This speaks to the importance of context when it comes to assigning meaning to an image or to a phrase. The importance of context is shown through an analysis of each element taken independently. The quote alone does not have much impact, unless it is given in its full context. In full, the quote has a foreboding and negative meaning. While it is confident, it is also morally concerning. Without context, or an image to identify the speaker, the personal “I” is unknown, “conduct” is vague, and reference of faith in the “Almighty Creator” doesn’t carry much weight. The picture alone also has less of an impact. While it is depicting the Pope (a recognizable public figure), it begs the question, “Why does this matter?” The viewer can assume what is going on in the picture, but, without text, the picture remains fairly static.
Through this juxtaposition, I was hoping to show the importance of attribution and context when it comes to pairing texts with images. Coupling texts and images allows the viewer to make assumptions that may not hold any truth. Because of this, the creator has a responsibility to present information fairly when sharing it traditionally or digitally. While the man depicted and the man who spoke the quote hold drastically different beliefs and represent drastically different histories in international cultures, both believe their conduct to be correct. The social and ideological meanings represented by the image and the words create an interesting dynamic when paired and when analyzed in contrast.
Ultimately, when considering larger products, it is important to remember that all decisions matter when it comes to presentation. Even if something is not directly said, words and images carry meaning for viewers because they come to the viewing situation with their own beliefs and understanding. It is important to define words (especially I’s and subjects) in relation to images, and to create an appropriate context in terms of image/text coordination and full/partial text situations.