Hierarchy and the Los Angeles Times

This week’s discussion about the hierarchy made me think about the news images that I see on a daily basis. I was curious to see how many of them would fulfill all four categories of the hierarchy: informational, graphic appeal, emotional and intimate. I decided to conduct and experiment where I took 10 random photos from the website of the Los Angeles Times and tried to see how many categories of the hierarchy each one of them fulfilled.

Each of the 10 featured photos were on the newspaper’s website on October 4, 2011 and they cover a wide range of news topics including local, crime, world, business and sports. The photos include headlines and captions but I am solely judging them based on the photograph itself.



1. I don’t necessarily think that this photograph is informational. As a viewer I can definitely tell that it is an area that is in desperate need of water but that’s about all I can tell. I don’t know who, what, when, where or why and I definitely don’t know how. This photo does have graphic appeal, it is shot from a cool angle and the dried out ground makes for an interesting pattern. Also, it does employ the rule of thirds. To me this photo isn’t emotional or intimate. I can’t seen the one subject’s face, so no emotion is present and I don’t wonder how the photographer got access to this location, so it’s not intimate.


2. This has to be one of the worst news photographs I have ever seen. In truth though, it is slightly informational because the viewer has to assume this story has something to do with the Fullerton Police Department. It does not have graphic appeal in my opinion, in fact this straight on and centered shot is kind of boring. There aren’t any people fully represented in the frame, so it is neither emotional nor intimate. I believe that photographs that do not feature human beings or animals can still be emotional and intimate but this is not one of those photographs. It looks like a stock photo.


3. This picture is informational to a degree because it appears to be about cell phones. The way in which the featured subject is showing off the cell phone indicates that it is important. It has some graphic appeal because the lit up cell phone cases are interesting and different. Unfortunately, the yellow-shirted man in the background distracted me from the center of the photograph. There is a slight look of curiosity or intrigue on the main subject’s face and I would count this as emotion. There is a lack of intimacy. Personally, I haven’t seen many technology photographs that feature intimacy.


4. This photograph presents more information than the three previous photographs combined. The visible signage helps show the viewer that this is some type of rally or protest in favor of Medi-Cal and Medicaid. Also, a government building is visible in the background. This photo doesn’t have a lot of graphic appeal because a more decisive moment could have been found and not all featured faces are larger than a dime. The disabled individuals shown in this photo make me feel emotion, so it’s successful on that front. These people look like they are struggling physically and that this rally is important to them because they need healthcare in their daily lives. It doesn’t go all the way to intimacy, the camera is not close enough to the action and I don’t believe I am looking at a private moment.


5. Immediately I look at this photograph and I am bored. Many photos of sports are interesting because they contain action and vibrancy. Sadly, this photo contains neither. I am a baseball fan and I previously lived in Los Angeles, therefore I know right away the main piece of information that is contained in this photo. It’s that this story has something to do with the Anaheim Angels and most likely it has to do with management because their coach is on the left. Honestly, it doesn’t have a whole lot of graphic appeal. The color red is nice and adds something to the overall look but its composition is average. It doesn’t contain emotional aspects or even a tiny bit of intimacy. It looks simply like two guys having a routine discussion and it is something that any photojournalist could have captured.


6. The information that I am gleaning from this photograph is that some kind of crime was committed, this is apparent by the use of police tape and that the cops appear to be looking at photographs of possible suspects. I truly can’t tell what kind of crime was committed, who was involved or where it happened. Majority of the who, what, where, when and why questions go answered with this photograph. The photo does offer some graphic appeal, the police officers represent the first-third of the photograph in the rule-of-thirds and the police tape creates interesting radii that control the viewer’s eye. There is also some visible emotion in this photo; the female police officer is obviously having some type of reaction to a certain photograph. It does not cross the line into intimacy though, this is not a private moment and any individual with a camera phone could have taken this photo.


7. This is another poorly utilized photo. I see some sort of power plant and that’s it. I don’t know where it is or what is newsworthy about it. Graphically this is an adequate photograph. The fluffy clouds in the background create nice shapes. Also, there is nice use of soothing color with blue and green featured. I don’t see anything that could be construed as emotional, the plant is not spewing black smoke, it’s not on fire and it doesn’t appear to be leaking. Finally, this is not a close-up; it doesn’t require special access and the photographer simply shot it from across the river. Anyone could have taken this photo, I never once thought about how the photographer got this photo.


8. I see that this is an airport. That’s the only available information. I don’t know which city this airport is located and this could be any dozen of stories about airline safety, airline food, new planes, airport expansion, etc. It does have graphic appeal. The lines that are created by the windows and the unique colored graphics on the tails of the planes are appealing to look at. Overall, the composition is fairly nice. This photograph is lacking emotion and intimacy. I truly hope this is not an airline safety story because frustration, anger and fear are not represented in this photo.


9. With regards to my former life in Los Angeles, I recognize this man as the current mayor of LA. His name is Antonio Villaraigosa and he is a very controversial figure there. I can’t tell the purpose of this story based on this closely cropped photo. He is not shown doing anything. It’s a standard headshot and doesn’t have much graphic appeal because it’s something I’ve seen thousands of times. The Mayor doesn’t look very emotional and even though this is a close-up, I’m not feeling intimacy. The Mayor attends dozens of public events every week, so this could have been shot by anyone at any time.


10. From what I can see, this looks like dead bodies being carried in coffins in a middle-eastern country. It doesn’t have a ton of graphic appeal; in fact it’s rather ordinary looking. Most of the faces in this photo are blurry too. The coffins and the masses that came out to see these people brought to their final resting place adds some emotion but it’s diffused by this being a long shot. It doesn’t hit me in the gut and I can’t tell what the photographer was feeling when he or she took this picture. Also, it’s too far away to be intimate. It looks like it was shot from a position (up on a fence or hill) that a lot of people would have access to.


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