Monday, January 02, 2006

What makes us respond to an image?

Mowing the lawn in an old cemetry in South Africa.

I think are several factors which can influence the importance we attribute to an image or how we rate it aesthetically. Without going into a philosophical discourse about it, here are a few key considerations:

I don't think there is such a thing as a bad image or a good image, just pictures that are interesting and pictures that are not interesting. Whether or not depends on several things:
  • Historical context. Older pictures tend to get more interesting
  • Subject matter
  • Technical and aesthetic qualities
  • How well an image communicates an idea or emotion
  • How unusual the image is. Unique views and rarely seen subjects are more interesting
  • The caption or text associated with the image is extremely important to how we perceive it
  • The way the image is presented. The same picture in a magazine, a book, on screen or in a gallery will all be perceived in a different way. Many pictures that work well on a computer monitor actually come out quite poorly in print and vice versa. Each medium has its own associations and particular graphic quality
  • Who took the image has an influence on the way it is perceived. Mediocre images by famous photographers will still generate more interest and acclaim than superb images by unknowns.
  • Personal associations and experiences that relate to the subject matter will also influence the way you perceive it
  • Personal taste in things like colours

Why we like a particular image and why we find it interesting are complicated issues but hopefully I've provided some food for thought.

Paul Indigo
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