The phrase “a picture’s worth a thousand words” has the ring of timeless wisdom about it. In fact it was coined in the 1920s to promote the purchase of outdoor advertising on streetcars in America. However the power of the image as a communications medium was well understood long before a copywriter captured it with a pithy slogan.  A picture of a crying child, a cute baby animal or a spectacular sunrise evokes a whole set of complex responses that would take a very long time to communicate in print.

Pictures now play a key role in most other media – particularly newspapers, magazines and web sites.  Moving pictures are, of course, the essence of television and film.  But this chapter is about the use of images as a stand-alone medium in their own right.  It covers drawings, paintings, photographs, maps and graphics. These are the two dimensional images which are employed as media to convey a message. A picture has been “made” for a reason. It can be the most basic line drawing with a stick of charcoal or a complex montage of photography, paint and printed graphics. A picture has been created for a purpose and, as such, it is acting as a medium of communication with the objective of transmitting information or ideas - it is trying to tell us something.