HSC Visual Texts: Analysis and Answers for Unseen Visual Texts

A guide to answering questions on visual texts in the first section of HSC Advanced English Paper 1. (This is often referred to as the ‘unseen texts’ section.)

If you’re doing Belonging as your Area of Study in the preliminary HSC year, check out the tips and examples on approaching the unseen texts section below. The advice is of course also applicable to unseen texts for Discovery.

We’ll start with the visual text of Paper 1. The visual is usually the first text that appears in the section.

HSC 2013 Paper 1: Area of Study, Belonging

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If you are doing Belonging in your preliminary year, don’t feel put off by the fact that this is an HSC practice paper. You might actually find that the texts are relatively easy compared to what you have come across at school so far!

HSC Area of Study Belonging 2013: Text One

image

THE QUESTION

Describe how a sense of disconnection is created in this image. (2 marks) 

Key points to remember: 

  • If a question contains the word ‘how’, it is asking you for an analysis of techniques.
  • This is a 2-mark question, so aim for 2 techniques. The maximum number of marks attainable should always indicate how much you need to write.

 

Key questions to consider when you get a question about an image: 

  1. Is there text in the image? If so, where and how is it positioned?
  2. How are the various elements of the image placed in relation to each other?
  3. What is the viewing trajectory?
  4. What is the effect of the image’s lines and colours?
  5. How can you succinctly articulate your answer with strong, direct vocabulary?

Sample Responses: 

1. Is there text in the image? If so, where and how is it positioned? 

In my article about poetry analysis, you saw that typography can be a very important technique. Typography can be important with visual texts also. Here, the layout of the text changes as the message reaches its climax.

The boy’s isolation is emphasised as the words ‘alone in the city’ are distributed across four lines, with each of the four words occupying a solitary position in the line.

2. How are the various elements of the image placed in relation to each other? 

The placement of the boy in the bottom left-hand corner of the image, while the city’s buildings are stretched across the frame, reinforces the boy’s vulnerability in the face of the city’s towering presence.

3. What is the viewing trajectory of the image? 

This question is about the trajectory (path) which the eye travels across when it encounters the image.

This is not a question that demands a path that is true for every viewer. You need to decide which path is true for you and argue that it effectively presents the meaning of the visual. In this image, you could argue that the distorted cityscape appears first, then the textual message. The appearance of the text after the image of the city lends the viewer a conceptual springboard from which to form meaning about the image. The boy appears on the path last, highlighting the image’s message of alienation.

4. What is the effect of the image’s lines and colours? 

The cityscape is cartoonish in line and colour, and some of the buildings are distorted. This creates the effect of a dreamscape, suggesting that the boy’s fears and anxieties about the city are rooted deeply in the unconscious layer of his mind.

5. How can you succinctly articulate your answer with strong, direct vocabulary?

Don’t waffle, and choose strong adjectives which capture your point in fewer words. Instead of “the buildings of the city are colourful but the boy is black and white and when placed beside each other, they show that the boy is in a gloomy, isolated state”, you should write: “contrast between the colourful cityscape and the monochromatic sketch of the boy reinforce the latter’s isolation”.

Of course, often you might not know the succinct adjective, or technical name of some things. Reading sample answers to Paper 1 of the HSC Area of Study, talking to a teacher, tutor, or knowledgeable friend will certainly help!

 

  • The featured photo on the front page is by 20th century Modernist photographer Paul Strand.