Sample Art Paper on Visual Cultural Analysis

Sample Art Paper on Visual Cultural Analysis


The paper conducts visual analysis of one of iconic pictures; a vulture stalking a child taken by Kevin Carter who started his photography career in sports but later shifted to capture images of humanitarian issues that were affecting people in society. The shift saw him capture issues in South Africa that revolved around anti-apartheid protests and violence that was witnessed in at the time due to political instability. His career was motivated by his resolve to capture human issue that was pressing most citizens in countries around the world, this motivated him to travel to other countries that were experiencing extreme hunger and this led him to Sudan. Kevin Carter got more interest in Sudan based on assertions by Herman Cohen that civil war in the country had contributed to occurrences of diseases, instigated homelessness and hunger in most parts of the country. The war was predominantly between the north and south as Islam and non-Muslim rebels clashed forcing millions to run away from their homes and walked long distances across lands that were drought stricken with no cattle and crop and death was imminent.

The main theme features ‘nation’ that represents the members of African countries both in Carter’s initial stint in South Africa and later in Sudan. ‘Identity’ is also encompassed in the theme to help in portraying specific objects where the child identifies the poor and vulnerable in society while vulture represent political leaders responsible for  violence and war in nations.


When he arrived in Sudan, he came across a group of people who were heading to a nearby feeding center. It was at this moment that he saw a little girl who was struggling to keep up with the pace of others and had laid down to rest. As he prepared to take a photo of the toddler, a vulture came and landed on the scene. The artist took his time to capture the image; however, this time he was waiting for the vulture to spread its wings something that did not happen. This prompted him to capture the image that would later win him a prize despite the huge controversy that surrounded his photograph. The photo was published in New York Times on March, 26 1993 to depict the suffering that experienced in Sudan. Many of those who saw the picture were moved by the message the artist was sending. Many of these individuals became interested in knowing what happened to the little girl. As part of creating awareness of the predicament of the Sudanese during the war, the photograph was reproduced and captioned in many news articles to show that the condition was devastating. Many people criticized Carter claiming that he could do something to help the girl. However, journalists were prohibited from touching victims of hunger as such an act could spread diseases. He pointed out that many people died at the feeding center and even regretted for not helping the poor little girl though it is believed that he later chased away the vulture.

The artist succeeded in capturing the photo at an angle that signified the vulture was just a few feet away from the child though the vulture was much further away. The girl is turned more towards the audience to emphasize how she was suffering. This was to put more emphasis on the girl and so the audience is left to concentrate on the main object of the photo: the girl and the vulture that has also been given prominence. The image allows the audience to connect and relate the two main objects of the composition; they are left wondering whether the girl actually died and whether the vulture fed on the corpse of the poor little girl.

Design elements and principles are important in any artistic work composition since they allow an artist to succeed in communicating to the audience. In this piece of art, the artist has used space effectively; it can be observed that the vulture is diagonal to the girl which adds more interest. The artist also achieved positional relationship of the vulture and girl and in the process, full figures of the objects are effectively accommodated on the frame. In the photograph, the vulture and the head of the girl both lie on a vertical third of the space showing how the artist has succeeding in using the rule of thirds to give prominence to the main objects ion the composition. This also adds to visual appeal and shows the current situation on the actual space, both eyes of the vulture and child lie on the horizontal third line and communicates a lot on what is likely to happen. Moreover, light element has effectively been used in the composition, it is observed that he has employed natural light and this has ensured that there is not much contrast in the picture. In addition, colors used in the composition are grayish and dull and works well for the picture in depicting the dull and emotional situation surrounding the actual environment.

The theme and subject matter of the artwork is human suffering. This image can be connected to other images that Carter captured during violence that he witnessed in South Africa, another nation is Africa. The picture aims at touching the compassionate trait of humans with the view of moving them to sympathize with the victims of the war. This photo also prompts people to act through human aid and assistance to alleviate the suffering that people in Africa are going through. Moreover, the picture speaks volumes on the social and political issues in Sudan with the civil war believed to be responsible for the suffering as it drove them away from their homes. The artist has excellently summarized the immense suffering of people in Sudan in a single picture of a child faced with a problem of keeping with the pace of others to survive. In capturing the image, the artist gave room for people to interpret the massage, others have pointed out that the girl in the photograph signify the suffering that the people had to undergo while the vulture signifies the how politicians, human rights and other nations were just sitting back and watching people suffer.

The image and the text (content) tell the same story of the suffering experienced in African nations while other countries are just watching as discussed in the picture. This is congruent to the child struggling to survive as the vulture waits to feed on her dead body in the image. Many newspapers reported the plight using the same image to highlight on problems faced by Africans in times of war and political instability. Journalistic images are similar messages that they want to communicate but differ on the way they want to portray the message. In this image, Carter focused more on the vulture and child to create more emphasis on the suffering of the child and to allow the audience to link life and death.



Artists across the world communicate different messages to the audience through well coined themes and subject matter, in this piece of art the visual evidence present is of suffering that people had to endure in Sudan. This is supported by the emaciated child struggling to survive and the vulture standing a few feet from the child waiting to feed on the carcass of the child after dying of hunger. This artwork communicates the state of suffering in developing countries, particularly in Africa while other developed nations are just watching without assisting for fear of more violence instigated through involvement in African affairs. Currently, this is still being witnessed in some African nations that have to deal with hunger, suffering, corruption, environmental degradation necessitated by bad leadership and poor governance.