Visual Rhetoric or the Rhetoric of Power in Images of World Leaders

(A Model for measuring Social Distance in news portraits of world leaders)

 Willem Koetsenruijter

Abstract: The fact that a particular photograph appears in news media, can be seen as the result of collective rhetorical work done by spin doctors, photographers, journalists and editors. The central idea of this paper is that rhetorical means used in these photographs can be explained by the concept of 


Social Distance. We developed a scale to measure Social Distance in photographs and compared 300 photographs of a political leader from a High Social Power Culture (Gaddafi from Libya) with 300 photographs of a political leader from a low Social Power Culture (Obama from the United States). 

Results show that the use of rhetorical means such as point of view, facial expression, et cetera, can be explained from a model based on increasing or decreasing Social Distance. The developed scale produced the predicted differences between the two collections of photographs.

Keywords: visual rhetoric, rhetoric of power, rhetorical codes, world leaders, portraits, photographers.

Presentation –
Koetsenruijter, Wilem: The Rhetoric of Power in Images of World Leaders



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  • Научното електронното списание „Реторика и комуникации” започва да се издава като част от дейностите по проект № 167 от 2011 г., НИС, СУ „Св. Климент Охридски” „Особености на академичната комуникация в интернет (Уеб 2.0): писане и публикуване в научни електронни списания”.
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