An Evaluation of an Advertising Photograph for Norwegian Cruise Lines


Advertising photography is ubiquitous in today's society. Every magazine and newspaper we see contains images designed to make us value and purchase the product or service advertised or vote for a politician or believe in a cause. Our mail boxes are full of catalogs with enticing pictures of products we just have to have. Advertisements are about quality, image, life-style, mood and occasionally the product itself. The quality and capabilities of the product being advertised is usually not as important as the image of the product. Cigarette advertising could not convince someone to smoke based on the merits of the product. Rather, smoking is encouraged by portraying an image of the person smoking and implying that smoking equates to that image. In selecting an image to analyze, I considered the use of photography in the image building aspects of advertising. I have chosen to discuss a photograph used in the advertisement of Norwegian Cruise Lines.


This photograph appeared in the March 21, 1994 issue of TIME magazine. TIME is a weekly news magazine, reporting on everything from world news to entertainment to health and science to business. TIME's news reporting is considered to have a liberal leaning. Advertising runs the gamut from family cars to luxury cars, PC products to major office machines. Judging by the general character of advertising in the magazine, the readership is upscale.

The Photograph

The advertisement is located on the inside back cover of the magazine. The photograph of concern is a black and white image of a nude women located in the upper left hand corner of the advertisement. The image measures 5-1/2 inches wide by 7 inches tall. It is set into the black background of the advertisement, along with a black and white image of a cruise ship in the lower right hand corner. The text, "I will study a sunset. I will be naked more. I will discover color.", in white letters on a black band divides the image in two equal sections, one above the black band and one below. Additional text surrounds the image: "I will put first things last", "I will memorize clouds", "I will be amphibious", "I will eat a mango", "I will get a really good tan". The only color in the ad is the red Norwegian Cruise Lines logo.

The women is centered horizontally in the photograph and is facing away from the camera, so only her back is visible. Her arms are in front of her body and not visible, giving the appearance she may be about to dive into the water. The woman is nude from the middle of the buttocks up. From the waste down she is in water. Her hair is dark, wet, and cut short and straight across the nape of the neck. Drops of water glisten off of her back. She faces a wall of moving water, such as that from a waterfall or a wave, which appears to be falling right at the woman's waist. The splash of water at her waist is frozen by the camera's exposure, revealing details of the water droplets from the splash. The water appears cool and clean. The outline of the woman's hips can be seen through the water. The light is from the top of the photograph, just as the sun on a sunny day, highlighting the top of the woman's wet hair and her shoulders.


Nude; cool, clean water; sunlight; a combination which says Caribbean beach, an ideal destination for a cruise ship. This image does not illustrate a product, but defines an ideal depiction of a vacation getaway. The text splitting the image, describes the nature of an idealized getaway: "I will study a sunset. I will be naked more. I will discover color"; the beauty of a sunset, the freedom of nudity, the ability to see the color and joy in everyday life. This idea is further reinforced by the text surrounding the mage. This text describes other feelings and actions which might be associated with an idealized getaway to a tropical island. These are things and emotions we may dream about, but never believe we will do. The photograph itself, also conveys these ideas. The privacy and isolation necessary to frolic in the water, nude on a sunny day can easily be seen in this photograph. The ability to disassociate yourself from all people and the troubles of the world is evident - a private little world where your fantasies come true, where you are free of day to day problems, no cares in the world. This is the image that needs to be portrayed when selling vacation products. An ideal vacation is no cares in the world, everything is perfect, the freedom to follow your desires. I believe that this photograph conveys that message and is successful at associating this perfection with a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Catherine J. Thompson, (408) 929-0729
Last Modified: February 7, 1998