No Caption Needed argues that iconic images are an important example of how modern public life depends on the appropriation and recirculation of images across a wide range of media, arts, genres, topics, and audiences. We have built an archive of hundreds of examples of iconic image appropriation—that is, of how various retailers, advocates, artists, culture jammers, and others have reproduced, repositioned, altered, or otherwise played with iconic images for persuasive effect. For example, the Iwo Jima flag raising is found on commemorative medals, beer mugs, paperweights, fireworks, comic books, Christmas tree ornaments, and on and on. For a particularly striking example:
You might say the political is personal.
But this high degree of identification with the civic symbol is not the only attitude in play.
Piety breeds parody, and so patriotism is accompanied by silliness as duty gives way to recreation. In both cases, however, the appropriation performs an individually defined freedom of expression while the body is a canvas for public display.
And then there are remakes that can’t be easily categorized, or that can be with a difference, that is, as they replay stock political attitudes through the media and iconography of a subsequent generation. This one is a Halo 3 Screenshot that has been captioned Band O Brothers: Tribute to Iwo Jima.
For a discussion of a few more Iwo Jima appropriations, see our posting and the subsequent discussion at BagnewsNotes that started on June 3, 2007:
Other iconic images lead to other appropriations. Note this example of the Times Square Kiss:
Iconic images typically are reproduced as statues, which are an older medium of public art and still one way to confer additional authority. But one of the sources of the photograph’s cultural power is its ability to be scaled up or down to fit any surface. And so the same image can be reproduced in both public statuary and private apparel:
The personal may be political, but I wouldn’t bet on the politics in this case.
Other appropriations are more straightforward examples of political articulation. Here’s a photograph that inadvertently demonstrates how iconic photographs are used for civic education. Note the images that the teacher has positioned along the back wall of the classroom
We can surmise that she is a dedicated teacher committed to helping her students become active, progressive citizens. Unfortunately, the photo accompanied a story about teacher burnout.
The circulation is acceleration through digital media. Here’s one example that is up on Flickr:
There will be many, many examples that we missed, and new ones being created all the time. Examples that you’ve found (or made) always are welcome.
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