Capture: From Cognition to Concretization

Photography is a medium through which we try to preserve fleeting moments. The photographer makes an attempt to take a photograph from a suitable angle, with appropriate light and colors to make the photograph meaningful. 

Photography dates back 150 years, and has covered a vast journey where it was seen as a perfect documentary medium because of its nature, i.e.,”the   medium ensured, unadulterated, exact replicas of the subject matter.”    

There have been developments in the field of photography in terms of applications like, “Instagram”, “Snapchat”, and “Facebook” to name a few. This is shown in different forms, to give an example, Humans  of New York,   talking about people and aspects of their life through the medium of photography. There has been development in the types of photography,   such as those with a focus on varying subject matter like nature, still life,  abstracts, portraits and fashion. There have been changes in terms of how people perceived photography as something intruding their private space to inclusivity today, where it has become a compulsory ritual in every occasion, social and otherwise. The purpose of photography in itself has changed and extended its limitations from official work to a trend today. 

While talking about photography, I would like to shift the focus to how a photographer makes a photograph. The way in which a photographer notices or understands something using his/her own senses is called perception.   Senses  such as vision, hearing, touch, smell, balance help us create a detailed  understanding of our surroundings, which are then captured through photographs.

We are naturally curious beings, we keep looking, exploring, and wandering along random paths. Some concertize their expression through speaking, some through writing; and some express through photography. For every individual there are differences  in perceptions based on one’s age, sex,culture, and expertise. When  a photographer views a scene, he/she makes meaning of it based on the information they receive from their senses and their past experiences. This further helps the photographer in framing.

Framing refers to the presentation on visual elements in an image, mainly the placement of the subject in regards to other objects. The goal is to bring the focus of the observer on the subject. It is primarily concerned with the position and the perspective of the viewer. There are a couple of factors such as depth of field, white space, vignetting, perspective distortion to name a few. Framing can be of different types,   such as environmental, structural, framing with light or without. They work towards bringing the attention of the observer towards the subject.

A photograph for most of us is like a visual diary of our past memories, feelings, and emotions. A photograph provides an opportunity to revisit our sensations in a more structured form. The essence of photography is not simply about a black machine filled with lenses and flashes, but is a step beyond. It's about frames: what we are referring to and what we are expecting it to be perceived as by the other side through the senses. 

Our eyes have a dynamic feature to see the brightest and the darkest of colours. Considering the harmonious and disharmonious color patterns Sanocki  and Sulman conducted an Color  Relations Experiment to gauge the impact of color on visual short-term memory. They conducted four trials of both harmonious and disharmonious color palettes. The results showed that participants were better able to remember harmonious color palettes. Color differences between the foreground and the background may enhance one’s ability to focus our attention. 

For photographs to come out in their most natural form,the process of photography needs effort. A photographer needs to have a vision of what the capture of an image will look like. Visualization is  an important aspect in the field of photography, making a vivid final impact. The photographer must be able to see into the mind’s eye of the frame before he/she captures an experience. Mental imagery impacts the processing of perceptions, motor control, and planning. Visualization improves performance of a photographer and enables them to diversify across a variety of perspectives, rather than sticking to a unilateral way of capturing images. A photograph has elements in a frame such as shades, highlights and shadow details, exposure, and so on.

Our perception about an image is about how we structure and give meaning to the information we receive from our visual senses. Understanding the intention of a photograph, the meaning it makes, the feelings it evokes and the impact of an image on our brain is interlinked. Perception can be bidirectional when we consider photography i.e., from the perspective of the photographer and perspective of the observer who is looking at the photograph. There is a story which either connects the two  or a parallel that runs between the two individuals.   

While discussing about photography and perceptions in the two parallels of the photographer, and observer, the schema varies starkly from individual to individual in terms of age, gender and cultural background and expertise. The meaning I make of an object may vary from the meaning you make of it. Similarly, the lens and thereby the intention, with which an individual captures an image may vary from others in terms of its angle, frame, and so forth. 

There are constant themes that we as individuals work towards; one often clicks in the context of a particular theme. The art of photography is from the lens of both the photographer and the observer, from cognition to composition based upon his/her’s visualizations. 

Towards the end I realize that the photographs are too often looked at and rarely looked into, by viewing them through the frame of reference of a photographer. Most of us simply glance over photographs without thinking about the intention behind photographer’s capture. Viewing images within their frames of reference can help viewers make meaning, beyond the cursory glances we often give to the multiple images crowding our feeds. So the next time you view a selfie or a breathtaking landscape, take a moment to contextualize it; maybe you’ll connect with it. 

Anjali Kanojia