Friday, 31 May 2013

Pareidolia and expectations in Photography


"the imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist"
American Diana Duyser took a bite out of a cheese toastie in 1994 only to find herself face-to-face with what looked to her like the Virgin Mary. She noticed the Madonna's burnt image on the bread after the first bite and saved the rest of the sandwich for over a decade. Duyser put it up for auction on eBay where it drew 1.7 million hits and eventually sold for about $28,000 (£18,500).
Diana Duyser and her holy toastie

Pareidolia can be a product of people's expectations, says neuroscientist Sophie Scott, of University College London.

"Being able to see Jesus's face in toast is telling you more about what's happening with your expectations, and how you're interpreting the world based on your expectations, rather than anything that's necessarily in the toast," she says.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with photography.....I'll attempt to explain where I personally make the connection. The quote above is really the answer, it's all about interpretation and expectations. What you choose to photograph is your personal interpretation but how is it influenced by your expectations of the subject and equally as  important, how much of what the viewer sees is interpreted by their expectations? I have found this is particularly relevant when considering 'sense of place'.

When we attempt to produce photographs that convey a sense of place, are we catering to the 'expectations' of others, how much of what we produce is actually our own interpretation. Our own sense of place may be very different to what is expected. i.e. Diana saw the virgin mary in the toast. But in actuality it is a half eaten piece of toast. My close up photograph of a child and a dirty wellington, is evocative and very relevant to my own personal sense of place but meaningless to the expectations of images of the sense of place relating to the lake district. If the viewer has pre-concieved ideas or expectations then a certain image or photograph may be irrelevant to sense of place. So who's sense of place are we catering to, the photographers or the viewers?

1 comment:

  1. This is where the photographer finds an issue. The need - the reason to photograph. It may be to confirm or to challenge or simply to pose a question.The issue of perception - by the masses or by the individual is where the photographer points that question. If no one takes the debate on,as a need to respond either visually or critically, then its usually either irrelevant, unnecessary or below the radar of those who the artist /photographer wishes to engage.