On my last post, dealing with a photographer/artist who often comprises many images to create a new one, thequirkyone commented, that she likes the imagination going into such works of art.

My first instinct was to differ. I usually don’t like composite images and made an express exception on yesterday’s post, because I fell in love with the hues shown on the photographs. I tend to like straight shooting with as little tampering done to the images as possible.

But taking into consideration, that almost every image today is worked at and altered after the act of photographing, undergoing multible changes with the help of software, next to no imagery we look at is “real” anymore. And this train of thought is taking me on a wild ride…

Even old fashioned, point and shoot photography is an act of massive tampering with what is really there to be seen. The choice of camera and lense influence the outcome as much as the type of film used, shutter speed and aperture setting tamper any given photographic situation. And this is only the hardware. Just think about framing – what to include or exclude on the photograph. And then the chemicals set in – at least they used to, as long as films had to be developed, same as paper prints. Endless opportunities to make any image look different. Trust me, here I am an expert, I worked for years in this industry as a young photographer, way back when. In today’s digital world, all my expertise on this has been rendered worthless, as virtually all photographic information is translated into pixels and dots per inch and stored on computers in neat rows of ones and zeros. I am sure, modern day photographers in their white rooms – the equivalent to what used to be my workspace, the dark room – have a much bigger capacity to alter every single digit of light information stored to form an image. One might even want to call them editors rather than photographers. Hell, even I push the enhance button on my photo editor or change contrast, framing or colouring with my own photographs regularly and without much thinking, matching the actual image to what I believe it should look like or the motive did look like, when I took the picture.

Now we are actually getting onto real thin ice: The receiving end of every imagery around – the eye of the beholder. Physical seeing is – or so it seems to me – more a process of avoiding information. There is actually much more we actually don’t see of what is there to be seen, in order to protect our brain from information overflow. And what we do notice, is constantly matched by our brain to what we know of the world already. If need arises, the actual optical information is changed to match that brain-stored image of “reality”, in order to be able to deal with it. Neuroscientist Chris D. Frith puts it short and simple: “My perception is a forecast of what should be the outside world.”

And the ice is getting thinner, yet: psychology kicks in. Who says, the blue I see and find attractive looks the same to you? It doesn’t and it can’t. As I might connect a certain feeling to that hue, that you don’t. There is evidence, that most people find different groups of colour soothing, stimulating, cool or warm, attractive or off-putting. Entire branches in sales and marketing deal with that field of expertise in order to make us buy stuff. But the individual translation into what a colour actually means to a person varies, according to their very own experiences.

At this point, the question of whether any photograph is comprised of more than one image or actually shows “reality”, becomes utterly futile, don’t you agree? Let’s just agree, any image is a means of communication.