The phrase ‘Flower Power’ may insight images of free spirited hippies adorned in flower crowns whilst gesturing the peace sign…you would be right; but, the values and beliefs they embody are closely linked to the social progression we see today. The ‘hippie’ movement found flight in the 1960’s alongside ‘Flower Power’ amongst social and political protests, most notably against the war in Vietnam.
The 1967 photograph taken by Bernie Boston (featured above), captures a moment at a large anti-Vietnam war protest march at the Pentagon. The activist was 18 year old actor George Harris whose life was documented in the 2002 film “The cockettes”. The image embodies the themes of the social movement at the time with it’s ideology of peace not war. This image is widely considered as inspiring the term “flower power” the link is drawn when the signifiers of a person placing flowers in the barrels of guns held by military personal. It is a confronting image as it distorts what people are predisposed too, that violence is met with violence. Although passive protest was used before this event the juxtaposition of a gun with a flower are conflicting due to their varying natures. That is violence and death opposed to what is beautiful and peaceful. This is a clear example of objects serving as a signifier to attain a message beyond itself, being what is signified. The image is not simply a man placing flowers in guns but rather the image symbolises a stance against violence and political submission and the decision to act in love and peace. It also demonstrates the bravery necessary to challenge authority, in this context the military (or what is represents being an answer to conflict with violence).
Today the context of the time and protest lends its own connotations of social and political upheaval. As an audience we can associate the image with the protest culture of the 1960’s and be inspired by what it represents as evident in a contemporary context. This is evident in individuals in protests repeating the actions of George Harris decades later at a students protest Prishtina, Kosovo in February 2014.
A text does not need inspirational or moving connotations to have signified content alongside the signifier, any image or symbol will provoke ideas beyond the immediate content. The important thing is understanding visual texts for what they can mean and represent as opposed to simple face value.
*The Famous Pictures Collection. (2013). Flower Power. [online] Available at: http://www.famouspictures.org/flower-power/
*reddit. (2014). Student puts a flower in the Police shield during the Student’s Protests in Prishtina, Kosovo. [online] Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/europe/comments/1wz00x/student_puts_a_flower_in_the_police_shield_during/
*BBC News. (2014). Kosovo students clash with police in Pristina – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26094032