Visual Literacy

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I had a really hard time finding articles that really focused on Requiem for a Dream, and didn’t just summarize all of director Aronofsky’s films. Every time I watch this movie I am always struck by its complexity and the way it portrays a common aspect of life (drug use and addictions) but does it in a shockingly different way. The articles by Brooks and Adams only reaffirmed my appreciation by indicating the lengths that Aronofsky went through to make what he wanted: a great film.


Both Brooks and Adams comment on the “drug use” montage. The shots are different depending on which drug is being ingested (caffeine, heroin, cocaine, marijuana), but they always represent the monotony and repetition that the users deal with just to get a fix. A typical movie goes through about 700 cuts; Requiem had over 2000. This garners a new appreciation for both Aronofsky and the film as a whole. His dedication to portray these users in such a realistic light is pretty unique, which is why most depictions of the drug scene are so conventional and the characters are often just cliches. The montages themselves are what earned an NC-17 rating from the ratings board, so it’s pretty safe to say that they were as unidealized as you can get. The director marries technological advancements with a maturity in storytelling  that puts him way ahead of the game (Adams).


In terms of success, the movie only took in about $3.5 million at the box office. Its real triumph came after its video release; the film gained a huge cult following and is currently rated number 56 in IMDb’s list of greatest films (based on user’s votes). Brooks questions what exactly makes the movie so popular. Is it simply a cultural fixation with illegal drugs? Is it the depiction of how addictions affect any and all demographics? Is it the sex? It’s all of it, and it’s made all the better by Aronofsky’s “technical brilliance” (Brooks).


Adams, Sam. Requiem for a Dream. Philadelphia City Paper. 2-9 Nov 2000.

Brooks, Xan. “Requiem for a Dream”. Sight and Sound: 11.2, Feb 2001.

To be honest, I had no idea who Alex Garcia was before she came in to speak to our class. Besides obviously being very talented, it’s clear that she has so much passion and enthusiasm for what she does. She explained all of her pieces very animatedly, and I enjoyed listening to every anecdote. What struck me as the most important piece of advice was her suggestion to be extremely confident, and always act like you know what you are doing. Even for those who have no interest in photography or digital media, that suggestion will undoubtedly strengthen your work ethic, making you infinitely more appealing to employers. If you need a way to stand out, what could be better than showing dedication to every task you undertake?

My favorite piece would have to be the “Scene-In” shorts. As a girl who is interested in fashion (shock of the century, I’m sure), I’m always looking for ways to update my personal style. Now that I’m living in such a vibrant and diverse city, I’d be crazy not to take advantage of everything in D.C. Some of the people she interviews had great little tips for coming up with something unique and interesting to show off, and I’ll definitely be taking their advice.

A Family Remembers the Death of a Bulimic Teen

The documentary was shot and edited by Megan Rossman. It recounts the story of Sarah Siskin, who fought a seven-year battle with bulimia. She died April 29, 2003. On the sixth anniversary of her death, parents Alan and Barbara and sister Leah all remember Sarah in the hopes that sharing her story will help others suffering from eating disorders.

As the documentary is primarily an interview with Sarah’s family, Rossman mostly uses medium and medium close-up shots. During the interview, the family is telling the audience intimate stories about the daughter and sister that was lost, so it makes sense that the videographer would choose close, intimate shots. There is one wide shot when the family visits Sarah’s grave, which was most likely used to establish the setting.


Director/Cinematographer: Darren Aronofsky

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite film; I like so many, but my absolute favorites change all the time depending on my mood or what is going on in my life at the moment. As of this second, my favorite movie is Requiem for a Dream. Made in 2000, it stars Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. It chronicles the lives of four people living in Brooklyn, and how they deal with their addictions. Sara Goldfarb (Burstyn) takes diet pills to lose weight after learning that she will be appearing on television. Her son Harry (Leto), and his friend Tyrone (Wayans) are heroin-addicted drug dealers who dream of making it big. Marion (Connelly), Harry’s girlfriend, is addicted to cocaine. All four have big ambitions, but ultimately fail after they succumb to their addictions.

I have never seen a more disturbing film in my life. Rather than portray a glamorized or dulled depiction of the never-ending cycle of addiction, Aronofsky uses vivid and sometimes shocking images to chronicle the lives of his characters. It’s the American dream: you can never be too rich or too thin, and all four characters are sucked into the glitz and glamour of the “good life”. You feel some sympathy for the characters as they make their descent, but what is most heartbreaking is watching how amazing relationships are all torn apart because of their dependance on drugs.

The audience is there to witness as each character gets sucked down further and further. Sara begins to hallucinate from the “uppers” her doctor has given her to lose weight. Her hallucinations get progressively worse, and she ultimately is admitted to a mental institution. After refusing treatment, she undergoes electroshock therapy, and is reduced to just a shell of her former self. Harry and Tyrone dream of making to the big-time drug scene, but after a drug deal goes bad, they find themselves without money or drugs. Now without any means to support her drug habit, Marion lashes out at Harry, and turns to prostitution. Harry and Tyrone decide to go to Florida, hoping to score enough drugs to make a profit, but the growing black mass on Harry’s arm from injecting throws an obstacle in their path. After going to the hospital, both men are arrested. Harry’s arm gets so bad that it has to be amputated, and he is not expected to live. In the end, none of the characters are able to live up to their dreams of grandeur, and their lives are destroyed.


The mood that I tried to convey with my business card was simplistic, while still being visually appealing. To portray ‘vivid”, the photos I took were colorful,cheerful, and eye-catching. Although the image on the card is slightly faded,  it really pops on the white background. The plain text conveys a sense of seriousness. On a general scale, my business card portrays to possible employment opportunities my seriousness and dependability, while also indicating that I have a creative and fun side as well.

"Human Torch"  Greg Marinovich

"Human Torch" Greg Marinovich

I didn’t think that I would have such strong reactions to the Pulitzer photo gallery; there were times when I had to remind myself that I was around other people because I would’ve cried had I been alone. The flaming body draws the viewer to the picture. Like “Saigon Execution”, the  photographer uses the arm of the figure on the left to lead the viewer’s eye to the rest of the photo. Our eyes generally move from left to right when taking in images, which allows the story behind the photo to slowly unfold and piece itself together. In addition, the rule of thirds is implemented in both cases. The two figures in “Saigon Execution” take up the first and third portions of the photo, while the space in between makes up the middle. In this photo, each figure takes up its own “third”, with their expressions and mannerisms Of course, both photos also depict war, and how human lives can be ended with almost regimented ease. The most apparent difference is the use of color. The photographer uses vibrant colors and contrast between mannerisms and facial expressions to help evoke mood. By using color, the photographer seems to illustrate the reality of war; the hatred and conflict between the two groups results in a gruesome death. The figure on the right doesn’t even turn to look at the boy who is being killed, indicating that this scene is nothing new to him. The figure on the left is grimacing as he plunges the machete into the boy’s skull. He shows no remorse or hesitation in his actions. Finally, the boy in the middle is crouched down, trying to escape the unimaginable pain in the final moments before his death.


  • emmalaem: I've never heard of this movie before, but from what Ashley says it sounds like an interesting film. The scene that she posted was different than a no
  • zaiguo: I agree with you about her passion, it was very apparent that she was very excited to talk to us about being a new professional in the media world. I
  • Jessica Gale: Hi Ashley, Yes! I loved Alex's fashion shorts... Great to see the funky (yet sometimes conservative) sides of DC fashion... Especially liked her a