Images can often have social value. Images do not have value in and of themselves. Instead, they are awarded different kinds of values—monetary, social and political—in particular social contexts. Two modern images that immediately come to mind are Obama’s red, white and blue campaign photo, showing the then-presidential hopeful staring off into the distance with ‘progress’ printed below the determined-looking man; and Macintosh’s logo, an apple.

An icon is an image (photograph, painting, logo, etc.) that refers to something outside of its individual components, something or someone that has great symbolic meaning for many people. An hourglass depicting two blue globes, the top globe dripping into the one below may be an image of great symbolic meaning for years to come.

When the word iconic is used in conversation its true meaning often fumbles through my mind. For someone or something to become endeared through generations seems impossible. To be an icon, however, does not always occur through love. Violence and heated politics have some of the most-known iconic images associated with them. It can be argued that the conflicts of Tiananmen Square will be remembered not for their political context, but rather for one prominent image of a brave student standing before a line of tanks. The photo has become an icon of political struggles for freedom of expression.

It is hard to imagine images reaching a similar status in today’s overloaded news cycle. Professor and Chair of the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU Marita Sturken has stated, “As images are increasingly easy to generate and reproduce electronically, the values traditionally attributed to them have changed.”

Western Art for ages consisted of homologous paintings of a nurturing mother caring for an infant. A mother holding her child, book strewn out on a table also covered with bread and fruit, a relaxed look upon the child’s face and a content smile across the face of the mother. This is widely believed to represent universal concepts of maternal emotion, the bond between mother and offspring and the importance of motherhood throughout the world and human history. These ideals are no longer as universal as they were in the past. Mothers around the globe struggle to provide for their children, and the simple joys of children may escape them. Some women also no longer see themselves as the sole provider of love and affection. Images of motherhood are specific to particular cultures at particular moments in time.

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