How to snap an iconic photo in a second and become a millionaire.

What makes an image iconic? Are all iconic images tied to an event that everyone shares?  Write a post on what makes images iconic, including some specific examples of images that would be and would not be iconic. 

Just kidding. There is no formula for creating an iconic image.  There are patterns and similarities that can be found among the existing iconic images, but a concrete and successful ‘how to’ cannot be derived form these patterns and similarities.   Martin Kemp, Oxford Trinity College professor, wrote a book called, Christ to Coke: How Image Becomes Iconic.  Kemp distills four key characteristics of icon images.  The four key characteristics that he names are:

  1. Simplicity. Enough said.
  2. Robust. The image can be simplified and recognized off of very little. (ex. Che Guevara, Mona Lisa)
  3. Good repeats. The image can be repeated over and over again side by side. (ex. Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup)
  4. Openness. The image has rich associations.

The characteristic of openness can be expanded upon to mean that the iconic images need to have relevance.  The relevance of an image can be religious, political, cultural, historical, etc., it just needs to fit into a larger meaning in some way.  Images that do not resonate with people in a significant way do not achieve icon status.  Google search almost anything and you can find the plethora of non-iconic images that are out there, especially in the digital age.  Here is a cute one of penguins, or an awkward picture of someone on the phone.  Neither of these images have the characteristics that can be found in iconic images and, not surprisingly, neither of these images are iconic.

Sources:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/11/what-makes-an-iconic-image-from-the-mona-lisa-to-che-guevara/248269/

http://meloukhia.net/2012/02/what_makes_an_image_iconic_when_does_that_meaning_wash_away.html

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