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How do you depict overhearing

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (2006) Brand New, Interscope

Now I am not the most knowledgable on the rules of design or branding. For this reason it is uncommon that I reflect on album art. However this one is an image that many people are familiar with and one that I can't quite get out of my head. It is the album cover for Brand New's 2006 release titled, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. For this review I am going to separate the image from the music project; this may infuriate some designers out there but let's do it anyway.

This is an image made famous by the band Brand New and has recirculated recently in the form of memes across social media. In my opinion the work deserves much more praise for its own successes as a stand alone shot. As someone more so interested in painting and sculpture than photography, I would like to approach it in the sense of spacing, color, composition, and conceptual fuel.

What we see:

Anchoring the piece are three figures. A small, female child. Arranged in position mimicking the exterior of what appears to be an older home. Dull colors accenting the major players of dark and light. The dark outfits seem like blaring signals of complexity in each of the characters. Where the light, in the form of faded, paint chipped, white walls, acts a divider both visually and physically with the spacing of characters along it. While the girl comes off as the protagonist, I am much more interested in the two taller figures to the right. They are ominous. Maybe due to the black hoods/coats, and skeleton masks. One stands relaxed hands in the pocket, no sense of the girls just around the corner. The other stands with staggered feet. Splitting his attention between his counterpart and the potential of someone coming around the corner. For this figure the information being shared is sensitive, private. The girl and the masked figures also fall on the rule of thirds lines. As well as the corner of the wall splitting the picture plane almost directly in half.

What we gather:

There is a feeling of false security in visual separation. The girl naively stumbles upon a conversation while standing just out of site of the speakers. One figure feels no threat of being "caught". The other is aware that someone may be listening and is cautious of the information that they let slip. The piece touches on communication. The are always barriers that block truly open conversation, whether that be our own insecurity to divulge sensitive details, our inhibitions to be vulnerable or confrontational. We cling to physical barrier to assure safety in our expression. Here we see the adults exploiting the girl's naivety to hide from her. The use of the corner to visually separate. And lastly the literally mask they wear to not show face. Even with all these barriers at work, a message is still expressed. We can imagine that the girl can hear what they are saying. Maybe she doesn't comprehend but the communication is there, just fuzzy. Out of sight. Out of mind. But within earshot.

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