Bark Frameworks

Frames and The Gray Lady

Posted on June 30th, 2014

Recently, three images in which frames played an interesting role appeared in the Sunday New York Times. The first picture was this one--above the fold on the front page.

The picture shows a banner for the Egyptian candidate for president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The banner is huge. And the frame itself, which is part of the banner, must be over six feet wide. In our last Frames + Media posting, we wrote “a frame may serve as an ornate halo, bestowing honor or status on the work framed.”

El Sisi - NY Times

The bestowing power of the frame works even more strongly in portrait framing. An impressive gold frame as the border for Mr. Sisi’s portrait exalts him in a way that recalls some early Christian images in which a square halo may frame the head of a living person of great sanctity. In this case, the ornate gold frame presents the candidate as eminently presidential, if not quite saintly. President Sisi was sworn in about a week later.

In that same edition of the Times was this ad for a bank’s investment management services.

Ameritrade ad - NY Times

The young woman (the label reads “interior designer”) represents the new investors they’re seeking. She’s actually laughing (investing is fun!). She’s framed in the same way though as the old fashioned male investors. We’re not surprised to see the old boys in these pretentious gold clichés, but why is the new young interior designer stuck in the same sort of tired old frame? Probably because the people who design and pay for these ads are convinced that these frames “bestow honor or status” – no matter how inappropriate the frame is to the person portrayed. We should remember that this is an ad for a bank and banks are still often designed to look like classical temples. In some industries, old traditions die hard.

Finally, an ad for Armani eyeglasses: “Frames of Life.”

Armani Eyeglasses - NY Times

Eyeglass frames are two-way frames—they circumscribe our view of the world, while at the same time the world sees each of our eyes as separate, framed images. Unless of course we’re wearing dark glasses, which effectively prevent anyone from looking into our “windows to the soul”. Isn’t it odd that fancy eyeglass designers still make these “tortoise shell” eyeglass frames (plastic actually)? Long ago, eyeglass frames were made from real tortoise shell, as were picture frames; eyeglasses were also bordered in horn (horn-rimmed glasses). As we see here the tortoise shell frame (plastic version) still persists for eyeglasses, though not for pictures.

-by Jed Bark, Bark Frameworks


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