Persuasive Essay on Propaganda

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In this essay, I am going to look at intertextuality through propaganda and looking at the artist Shepard Fairey. Shepard Fairey’s work that I am going to look at is the poster called ‘Hope’ for the Obama Election campaign. I will also be looking at other artists who produce propaganda pieces and how they differ from Fairey’s piece. In addition, I will be viewing what intertextuality is what propaganda is, and its origin. How Fairey shows hope and peace within his design rather than war. The reason I choose Fairey is that he’s a contemporary artist and shows a different view from other propaganda art I’ve seen this will be discussed later in this essay.

Intertextuality is a term that was coined by Julia Kristeva in 1966, she explains that “literary work redistributes earlier texts in a single text, so it is necessary to think of it as an 'intertext'” (Mozdzenski, 2013). Intertextuality is the meaning that one text has from another text, and these texts are to influence and give depth to the text for the reader. Text can be influenced by each other, referenced, quoted, drawn from, or inspired. “As Kristeva wrote, any text can be considered a work of intertextuality because it builds on the structures that existed before it” (Literary Devices, n.d.). This tells us that any work we see can be a form of intertextuality, as that nothing is unique and has been taken from something to create something new. So, when I’m looking at Shepard Fairey, I’m going to be looking at the inspiration that made him create his ‘Hope’ poster and whether texts or visual references played a part in his design. “The concept of intertextuality can also be expanded to music, film, advertising, and so on in the way that everything produced now is influenced by what came before. References to pop culture in advertising, films that are made from books” (Literary Devices, n.d.). The idea of an artist getting influenced by whatever was produced before them that work for Fairey, he says he got inspired by several images, this is a use of intertextuality. “Images are never free of context” (Ilan, 2014) this means that images are not original and that other images or texts have an influence on them. Intertextuality and images have a connection this can be shown through artist work and how they get inspired or influenced by other artists.

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“At its most basic, propaganda is biased or misleading information circulated via some form of mass media with the intent of promoting a political agenda or viewpoint” (Bergstrom,2019). Propaganda is information that is not objective, it is used to influence people to an agenda through text and images. Throughout the year modern propaganda uses media to convey messages through radio, television, websites, posters, and paintings. The term propaganda originated with the Roman Catholic Congregation de Propaganda Fide (Committee for the Propagation of the Faith) it was established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV “to promote the faith in non-Catholic countries. The group’s name was often informally shortened to “propaganda,” and the name stuck” (Tavistock Books, 2014). In the 20th century, propaganda was used as a powerful tool in world war 1 where the propaganda was on such a large scale through Germany and Britain. “the extreme power of propaganda was apparent. The word “propaganda” soon developed a negative connotation, one that it still carries to this day in the English-speaking world” (Tavistock Books, 2014). Propaganda is used to influence people’s attitudes, opinions, emotions, and actions, these are shown in the present day through paintings, posters, television, films, websites, and also press. A few examples of propaganda are the ‘I WANT YOU’ by James Montgomery Flagg, the poster was produced to be a recruitment campaign. With the illustration, Uncle Sam created a more or less elder figure with his pose, look, and clothing, and with his eyes looking straight forward and his finger pointing towards the viewer, and with the ‘YOU’ in bold red it makes it look like he’s talking to you and trying to engage with you. In 1917 this was a famous propaganda poster and was used during World War 1 and World War 2 to recruit soldiers for the U.S Army. The ‘I WANT YOU ‘poster used the inspiration of the graphic artist Alfred Leete on the illustration cover for the London Opinion Magazine. Another example of propaganda is the ‘We Can Do It’ poster by J. Howard Miller “is an image that can simultaneously be interpreted as a champion of women’s empowerment as well as a dictator of the nature of womanhood” (Blaylock, 20170. This image shows a symbol of motivation, and strength and is also connected with feminism. The poster “was not popular at all during World War II it was hardly seen. The poster rose to fame, years after the war was over, more specifically in the early 1980s” (Alex. A., 2016). This poster shows the striking and bold figure that is relatable as a factory worker for both men and women. The colors used such as blue, red, and yellow create an exciting and engaging piece. The yellow background makes the figure stand out and be the focal point making the poster be seen from a distance. The reason for looking at examples is to see what the propaganda within posters achieves and the impact it has on the society of the time. A lot of the propaganda posters that I have been looking at are war-related either from the Russian Revolution, World War 1, or World War 2. This is why I am looking at Shepard Fairey's work doesn’t suggest anything about war but more of hope and peace within the society.

Shepard Fairey’s full name is Frank Shepard Fairy, he was born on 15 February 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina. He is a contemporary muralist and graphic design artist. “Shepard Fairey’s work has been used in screen-prints, stencils, stickers, masking film illustrations, wheat paste, collages, sculptures, posters, paintings, and murals” (street art bio). He is also the co-founder of OBEY Clothing a popular company founded in 2001. “Fairey has constantly shifted between the realms of fine art, commercial art, street art, and even political art” (Street Art Bio). Fairey is also a social activist and is part of the street art movement with other artists like Banksy. Fairy has had several successful art pieces such as ‘Andre the Giant’, the obey trademark, and also the ‘Hope’ poster which I’ll be looking at. “Fairey has constantly shifted between the realms of fine art, commercial art, street art, and even political art” (Street Art Bio). We can see this with his ‘Hope’ and also the ‘We are People’ posters. The work I am going to look at from Fairy is the ‘hope’ poster, “Fairey's art reminds us that Americans of all colors, creeds, nationalities, identities, races, beliefs, classes, locations, and lifestyles” (Caruso, 2008, p.4-5) This is shown throughout his work. During the 2008 presidential election, Fairey said “I didn’t want to hurt Obama's cause so I did reach out to some people in his campaign and say I would like to make a poster on my art” (CNN, 2015). He also explained that he wanted the poster to show “a leader with vision and conviction and was a patriotic image” (CNN, 2015). The leader aspect can be seen in the poster from the position of the way he is standing it’s a three-quarter profile looking into the distance. The Obama pose that was used was based on a photograph taken by Manni Garcia in April 2006. Fairey saw that Obama and he had the same point of view on politics. Fairey has created work on political issues in the past and thought that creating a poster for Obama for the presidential election would be a great way to support him, he thought it would make sense to create a piece of art for him that helps with the campaign. The way I feel intertextuality is used in this poster is that even though Fairey doesn’t say at all if he had got inspiration for his illustration, I feel intertextuality was used as according to (Scott, 2017) “The iconic “three-quarters view”… Fairey used, was inspired by the well-known JFK portrait” “after looking at the portrait I notice the similarity with the close up of the face to capture the emotion and to create a sense of an important figure and the eyes looking in the distance and not at the viewer's eyes. According to (Jordan) the poster is “very reminiscent of the Che Guevara poster”. Fairey says the pose for Obama “was a classic political pose” (Scott,2017). This created him to be an icon in people’s views, “Fairey’s style is said to be mostly influenced by Constructivism and Social Realism” (Scott, 2017). The word Hope which the piece of art is called was placed at the bottom of the artwork in large capital letters, the text used is a slab sans serif called Gotham. “The use of Gotham in this work creates a sense of authority and a bold assertive statement in which there is no uncertainty” (Camjordan0, 2018). This also symbolizes that Obama can give people hope. With the text and the image as a whole of Obama, it might suggest that his vision is to lead the country into a better future. Fairey had several hundred posters to sell and put up on the street but it was it didn’t originally say ‘HOPE’ “Yosi got feedback from the campaign saying they wanted to push the “Hope” message so I switched it to “Hope” for the next ones” (Arnon, 2017) Yosi Sergeant was a publicity and helped Fairey with the posters for the campaign. Within the poster, Fairy uses the colors red, blue, and white these colors are chosen to represent the American flag and to show Obama’s patriotism. Some people have said that it is not white he uses but beige, for me, I feel it is white as you can see white within the poster. All the colors play a part in the illustration to create a sense of purpose and to create context within the piece. The color red used within the poster shows passion, desire, strength, and power these are feelings I get when looking at the poster. This could have also been a reason for Fairey to use red in his design not to represent the United States of America flag but to influence are feelings towards the piece of illustration. The blue influences the feeling of Peace, unity, trust, and security, the blue in the poster defines the face of Obama and creates depth within the poster. The white is shown as a cream but is meant to represent white placed on the face of Obama this could have been done to show that race does not matter and that people should not define someone by race but by the qualities that they show and represent to people. The two colors red and blue are split in the middle behind the illustration of Obama not sure what this could represent but it might be referring to America as a whole. These color characteristics show Fairey’s perception of Obama and also let us the viewers connect with the piece and have our feelings towards the poster. When this poster was used for Obama’s 2008 Election campaign it made it such an iconic image and popular within the country. Fairey’s work had such an impact on people it allowed them to create similar posters with their interpretation of society. Fairey says “The poster symbolizes something really important and its grassroots activism and the return to people believing in democracy, not with the people with the most power to manipulate democracy for their ins” (CNN,2015). These shows want I said previously that the colors in the background could be referring to America as a whole. Grassroots Activism is “a group of people who feel strongly enough about an issue to actively campaign to make a difference” (Crystal, 2018).The reason I chose this work to look at is that it portrays a different view from what I have looked at and shows peace, hope, and an important icon within society. Also, the piece has a lot of context within it, and thought it was good to explore what meaning of the work and how Fairey wanted to represent Obama. His work allowed people to view Obama in a way they thought Obama should be shown. Shepard Fairey created three “We are People” posters to protest against Trump for the Amplifier Foundation, “aim to give a face to groups who are frequently the target of hatred and racism” (Silva, 2017). In his posters, he styled it the same way as the ‘Hope’ poster. Photographs were taken of a Latina, Muslim, and African American woman for these pieces with the colors red, blue, and white to represent America. This was to show just like Obama’s poster that race didn’t matter and that everyone is equal. “Fairey said his 'Hope' posters and the 'We the People' posters are driven by the same impulse: to encourage those who feel powerless and deflated” (Gelt, 2017). At the bottom of each of Fairey’s posters, it says, ‘Defend Dignity’, ‘Are Greater Than Fear’ and ‘Protect Each Other’ he has done this to say the different types of Americans and what they stand for. 'What we wanted the public to know was that others believe the same things they do,' Huey tells TIME. 'And that these beliefs are not defined by political party, but by a set of values that are unassailable.' (Silva,2017). Aaron Huey was the man who launched the ‘We Are People’ protest.


To summarize, this essay was to show how intertextuality was used within Shepard Fairey’s work in propaganda, and the purpose of the piece was to create hope and say that the United States of America is whole and that everyone is equal. My thoughts on the piece are is that the image that Fairey portrays of Obama is a strong iconic image and lets the people understand the kind of man that he is and going to be for their country. As previously said Shepard says that Obama and he relate to the same things and he has seen one of his speeches this could have been the inspiration for Fairey’s work to portray the views that Obama says in his speech to his ‘Hope’ poster and this is how intertextuality relates to his poster and was used. His work was to create an important icon that portrayed a leader with vision and could represent him as a patriot. I feel this was portrayed well and the ‘Hope’ poster gave inspiration to others to create their points of view within the country with the style of Fairey’s work. With the ‘Hope’ poster being such a popular and successful image, I looked at the ‘We Are People’ poster and how the style he used in the ‘Hope’ Poster to create such a powerful message within the country of America.

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