Education and Arts

Dorothy Economou

University of Sydney

Hybrid photos: Evaluation and intertextuality in factual images

One of the biggest changes in communication across educational, professional and leisure contexts has been the more prominent role of images. Yet we are still long way from being able to provide descriptions of visual meaning to match the comprehensive descriptions we have for language. This is particularly so for the implicit evaluative work that famously makes images so much more powerful than words, most significant with respect to naturalistic 'factual' photographs in the news or in textbooks. One way forward has been to develop and use systems of visual Appraisal (based on Martin and White's (2006) account of verbal appraisal) to systematically describe these evaluative meanings (Economou 2009).

Building on this work, this talk will focus on an aspect of evaluation in images/ photos that is not easily captured through appraisal analysis. This is where an image makes a type of intertextual reference by incorporating features of an external context, resulting in what can be called a hybrid photo - one that may, for example, suggest a painting or a drawing, perhaps in a certain visual genre or style, while still remaining recognisably a 'news' photo. Though clearly to do with dialogistic positioning, this way of bringing an external 'voice' into a text, usually to great evaluative effect, is arguably not a choice within the system of Engagement as proposed in Economou 2009.  This talk examines a set such news images, their interaction with surrounding text, and (drawing on the work of Fairclough 1992, 1995 and more recent SFL work, as in Martin 2002) considers how best to theorise the powerful relationship between evaluation and intertextuality. 


Economou, D. 2009 Photos in the News: Appraisal analysis of visual semiosis and verbal-visual intersemiosis. PhD. Thesis. Sydney University, Sydney

Fairclough, N. 1992 Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge: Polity Press. 1995 Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold.

Martin, J.R. & White, P.R.R. 2006 The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Martin, J. R. 2006 Genre, ideology and intertextuality: a systemic functional perspective, Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 2(2), 275-298


My primary research interests and publications in the past decade have been in the area of multisemiosis and visual semiosis, particularly in the news media context, in both English and Greek. I have, however, worked with SFL theory and applications in a range of research and teaching positions since the 1980s. Though I have worked in print journalism and subtitling/interpreting/editing, my professional positions have predominantly been in the area of academic skills, both lecturing and research-development positions (e.g. developing online tertiary learning materials for the University of Sydney Learning Centre). I have held academic positions at the University of Sydney for the past fifteen years, the most recent in the Faculty of Arts as lecturer- coordinator of a postgraduate academic skills unit and writing advisor to research students across the faculty.