Exercise 2-6: Narrative 

Analyse Martin Shields photograph of two young photographers. What are the denotations and connotations of this image? 

Martin Shields-Football Boys.jpgDenotation: 

A black and white photograph of two boys in a residential area.

The two boys are wearing different shorts and football shirts walk with their arms around each other.

Each of the boys has a football under his arm.

There is a stretch of road to the left of the boys, the area to the right is unkept and there is litter visible.

A row of houses stretches in the background of the image, they are similar in size and shape. The houses are three stories high.

There are no other visible people in the photograph.


The different football shirts the boys wear suggest they support different teams. As the picture is in black and white it is difficult to say for certain which teams the shirts are for, however, the striped shirt could potentially be Celtic as the style of this shirt is quite distinctive. If this is the case it could be safe to assume the other shirt is for Rangers – the two Glasgow teams have a history that goes beyond simple rivalry into sectarianism. The phrase ‘are you Celtic or Rangers?’ is used in Glasgow to distinguish between Protestant and Catholic. The friendly nature of the boy’s arms around each other takes in an added significance if we assume that the teams are in fact Celtic and Rangers. There is a suggestion that for these two, the division between the teams are insignificant in comparison to their friendship.

The uniformity of the housing, which due to being three stories high is likely to be flats, and the run-down appearance of the land in front of the buildings suggest council housing, unemployment and poverty. The area is unloved and pitiful, the houses do not seem to be in a good state of repair which suggests neglect by both society and the residents. Despite this, the positioning of the boys in the foreground making them the clear subject of the image and the seeming friendly nature of their relationship give a sense of hope for the future.

Download the tear sheet of the newspaper in which the Shields photograph was originally published. Read the accompanying text and answer the following: 

Does the text relate to your initial deconstruction of the image? If so how? 

Does the text change your perception often image? If so how? 

Football Boys.jpegMy assumptions about the contents of the image and their significance is confirmed by the article – this is indeed a picture of a housing estate in Glasgow. With the context of the text, elements of the image that appeared significant take on further meaning – the rundown elements of the estate, while not in the forefront, illustrate the apparent need for a shake-up in public housing that the article describes. The friendship of the boys and their youth gives the sense of a future full of hope and promise – and that old divisions, such as those represented by the different strips, could be a thing of the past.


Duckworth, L. (2002) Glasgow tenants vote to sell off council housing. The Independent, 6th April 2002. Available at: https://www.oca-student.com/resource-type/footballboys [accessed 22nd August 2017]

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