Representation and Interpretation

We interpret images differently simply because we use our past experiences to shape our future interpretations. When I interpret things I tend to be literal in my understanding of what is trying to be conveyed. In terms of semiotics I denote what is trying to be conveyed whereas others may look at the image and connote. In saying that, my interpretation is neither correct or horribly incorrect, it’s simply MY interpretation. Consider the image below.

Photographed by Steven Klein

By looking at the image above my first denotation is that mum life is glamourous. This is simply without me reading the image. Of course having seen family and friends with babies and children and having heard all their horror stories, I know that motherhood is not glamorous. It may have its glamorous moments but it is not entirely as the image depicts. Which leads me to my second denotation of the image- motherhood is a choice and once made, you have committed yourself to it.

Conducting my own research I discovered that neither of my initial denotations were what the advertiser- Equinox intended their audience to have.

Equinox is an American fitness company with gyms scattered throughout the U.S. They pride themselves on their “innovative, results-orientated training techniques” (Equinox 2020) . Having learnt this, the slogan on the image “It’s not fitness, It’s life” makes more sense to me. Their gyms teach you how to better improve your life through fitness training.

This advertisement’s denotation (the literal meaning) may seem obvious to some. It is advertising breastfeeding in public in the aim to show audiences of the ad that breastfeeding is normal. But not everything is a literal as it appears. The image connotes that their gyms support breastfeeding women as they understand the commitment of breastfeeding children and the commitment needed for gyms. Hence they are saying that they support the women who breastfeed and want to still be able to participate at their gyms.

Many people have many opinions on the topic of breastfeeding in public, with many women shaming other women who breastfeed in public today. Do you support what you see? Are you completely against the topic? Do you understand or receive the encoded message?Do you feel as though this advertisement effectively encodes their message? Or do you receive (decode) a completely different one?

Personally I decode very differently from what the intended message is meant to be as I stated earlier in the post. But this does not mean I am wrong. It means that the advertiser and in this instance, (in my opinion as I did not decode the message they intended) Equinox, has not effectively encoded their message in their advertisement.


2017- Identity Campaign (Steven Klein)
2017- Identity Campaign (Steven Klein)


Falzone, D 2016, ‘Equinox milking controversy with breastfeeding ad?’ Fox News, January 5th viewed March 23rd 2020, < >

Curtis, R, 2016, ‘Luxury US gym Equinox uses images of a breastfeeding woman in ad campaign, “Commit to something.” MamaMia , April 19th, viewed March 23rd 2020 <;

Chandler, D 2017, ‘Semiotics for Beginners’ May 7th viewed March 23rd 2020,<>

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