How Images Frame


“When words become unclear I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ~ Ansel Adams

Meaning “reflection in a mirror”, the word image is early 14th century. The mental sense was in Latin, and appears in English language in the late 14c.

What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel and who we are. Images can be impressive and compelling. They grab our attention. While reading takes work, the brain visually processes much faster.


Images help educate. They enhance stories. And not surprisingly, vision is the far most active of the senses. Yet, do you intentionally create time to reflect on images and the empathy they can evoke? The teaching moment? Or the underlying sentiment?

When you seek to conjure memories or arouse emotions, do you find it challenging to find descriptive words? Rather than struggle with words, does an image more easily convey feeling, inspiration or thought? There is a reason that we are drawn to the works of photographers, illustrators and painters; there is promise, potential and reality in their renditions.


Think about it. Would you rather go deaf or blind? To live in silence is difficult but to live in darkness would be devastating. There are messages in images, sometimes deep themes. Just as the adage “Stop and smell the roses” encourages us to pause and appreciate, perhaps some willful breathing space could awaken you to an image’s more nuanced meaning and significance. Just maybe?

When contemplating how you frame images or how images frame your perceptions, considering these points may be helpful:

  1. Images don’t actually change; only what we think about it has. There can be plausible, alternative interpretations.
  2. Be aware of intentional image use in marketing and advertising. The subliminal message may be far from the accompanying, pleasing visual.
  3. Your unique experiences leading up to the moment you encounter an image will shape your appreciation of it. Like what you like, even if you’re not sure why, or can’t put the reason to words.

To close, a warming (perhaps to some) image…

Opening photo: Il cielo in una stanza (2013) credit Loris Rizzi

47 thoughts on “How Images Frame

  1. These are all reasons I’m in love with the photography, this wonderful mix of reality and interpretation. I will share your eloquent post if you don’t mind. It’s an expression of my thoughts, too.
    Best regards

  2. I’ve always wondered Eric, for those that choose a world of darkness, to refine all those other senses, but be lost to that one thing that expresses so much.
    Are they blind, as in ‘to the world’ and its meaning, or do they just define themselves from those other senses.
    My heart goes out to them, for if I imagine myself in their place, I think my courage would leave me.
    Great post kind sir, and your words are an ‘eye opener’….so to speak 🙂

    • Yours is a thoughtful question, Mark, are they blind… or do they just define themselves from those other senses? I know there are studies that show people who are deprived one or more of their senses can/do develop acute abilities with the ones they have. If a loss is something other than literal, I too would feel deeply for what and/or how they choose to not see. Thank you for your interesting perspective!

      • I thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. You seem to always know how to bring a topic up for readers to recognize themselves and have food for thought with every post of yours. You’re very special to me, Eric. I wish
        you a happy healthy inspiring week. Hugs.

    • Glad that I could somehow express and share the value in photography, Susan, even though I am not a photographer. But I am an active appreciator. 🙂 Thank you for helping to ‘illuminate’ the world through you lens and talent.

  3. Thank you, Eric, for posting this vital topic. Also, I highly respect your “large format” thinking about life!

  4. Really thought provoking post, Eric.
    It is so true that how we perceive things – images, reflections, mirrors – defines how we will feel or react. Images say so much to each one individually.
    I think sometimes (maybe a lot), as I struggle for words I may use photography to avoid thinking too hard. Haha. So much easier to say it with pictures. I guess it’s an intuitive approach.

    Your last three points were great. Psychology of advertising is really interesting to me. The subtle messages when you think they are talking about something else. Fascinating what we fall for!

    Thanks Eric.


    • I would reply that if it’s easier to say it with pictures and you can still well communicate your point, then why not, Mary? 🙂 Thank you for sharing your personal experience and viewpoint.

  5. Interesting and, presented in a right and left brain, friendly way.
    I get the picture that you are conveying. 😉

    The part about advertising and visual images, is very spooky, some going as far as being demonically spooky, not that I’m saying that there is a devil! …but if there is a devil, as a famous person once said: “If there is no devil, and the devil is simply a creation from the mind of man — then man created the devil in his own image and likeness.”

    • As someone who is entirely too left-brained, thank you Genie, for acknowledging that it stimulated both for you. I once added a post that in its entirety, addressed the sad issue of manipulative advertising. Chose instead to not go there again yet point #2 was a nod to how businesses misuse images. Glad you ‘got’ the picture. 🙂

  6. Images have a direct and quick connection with our imagination while reading takes a long time to take us into that domain. I have always loved images, they are thought-provoking, refresh our memories and transport us anywhere without that fabled lamp 🙂

    I agree with you dear Eric…’to live in darkness would be devastating!’ We are blessed!! Thanks for the reminders.

    • Lovely perspectives, yours, Balroop. I like your mention of how images transport us. Especially good ones can place us right into a moment/scene. Warmed that you appreciate the reminders. Thank you.

  7. Thank you, Eric. A very thoughtful and insightful post. Visuals are so important to me, I suspect that I tend to learn or process information visually (and kinesthetically). I love the Ansel Adams quote. Magnificent. How wonderful to read your post today, blessings to you. 🙂

    • You are welcome, Debbie. While visual learning is not my primary mode, I appreciate people who can derive much from interpreting photos/graphics/ illustrations/images – the interpretations seem infinite. Thank you for adding your personal thoughts!

    • “Old, old…” is simply a mind-set, JoNell. 🙂 I too enjoy holding images (and text) in my hands and I do not consider myself all that chronologically gifted. Thank you for your enjoyable comment.

    • Thank you, Aishwarya. It pleases to be able to share thoughts and words that enable readers to receive and reflect differently. Here’s to the new understanding that you are discovering!

  8. So true, Eric! I fell in love with photography because of its ability to express – for me, mostly the beauty in nature. But I am also aware of how images are used in advertising. Run free like a young horse on a summer meadow, but only if you drink this particular beer….

    • And a wonderfully gifted photographer you are, Helen! Yes, there are some amazing beautiful commercials out there, some that even tug at our heartstrings – but for the wrong reasons (IMHO). Thank you for sharing your talent and the photographic images that you so on your blog.

  9. Thank you for your thought provoking post. As a mother of a deaf child, I feel compelled to share that all our senses are important, only that we live in a very visual society. I like to believe that when we lose one sense, our remaining senses become more heightened and we learn ways to compensate.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Carol. I hope my mention of one’s potentially losing a sense was not insensitive. While the post was intended to provoke thought, we can all be more aware of and empathetic toward our fellow humans who cannot enjoy each of their senses. From my reading and understanding, it is often true that individuals who lose one sense find the others amplified. That in an odd way, at least to me, seems an unexpected gift. Thank you for creating time to share your personal experience.

  10. In the past few years imagery has become much more important to me. I’ve always been blessed with the passion of ‘seeing’ things, and seeing into things. I’ve taken the chance at creating imagery to replace or enhance my words.

    Thank you Eric. This post is pretty insightful. 😉

    • Hadn’t thought of it as a culture, yet coming from the very artistic you, I now ‘see’ and can appreciate that context. Ditto to viewing or thinking of it as language. As always, your comments prompt new and deeper reflection. Thank you.

  11. Just wonderful dear Eric.. We all of us could do with some images of LOVE right now. As the Image here presented in Words from the political scene is far from painting pretty images.. 🙂
    Which is why I go off and create my own.. 😉
    Love and Blessings.
    Sue ❤

  12. To learn the real definition of “image” here made my day. This alone made me a bit introspective, which is something that seems to be very easy these days. This mood, along with your question: “do you intentionally create time to reflect on images and the empathy they can evoke?” made me think about how my thought process has evolved from when in my 20s,always keep moving, thinking, and more of a ‘let the chips fall where they may type of guy, to where I am now, finding myself in a much more contemplative mood much of the time. Part of this transition is normal, part of the maturity and growth/aging stage, but I also put part of this into my interest in seeing things/images in life and how we are all connected. An image alone is boring, and rather it is what it is our minds can create of it. Hope you are having a great week Eric.

    • Good to learn that introspection is easing its way into your processing… one of many benefits of our becoming more chronologically gifted. Imagine if we still viewed and interpreted through the lens of our 20’s? 🙂 I find contemplative moods to be nurturing and illuminating so I’m entirely on board with that exercise, too. Here’s to your mind, Randy, continuing to yield amazing interpretations of images you see. Happy 4th if you’ll be in the States!

  13. I’m so glad I have made time to read this post!! Images are a very powerful way to provoke emotions and companies place alot of emphasis on developing the right brand to stimulate these emotions, appealing towards the more primitive part of the brain known as the reptilian brain. A simple way of noticing this is identifying the gender the product is aimed at. For a female response there will be soft arcing images to appeal to the feminine promoting caring, nurturing emotions and, sharp edges appealing to the masculine, more harsh and dangerous.

  14. Indeed, Martin, companies pay advertising agencies unprecedented sums of money to not only promote their brand(s) in favorable light but to influence decision-making in some very manipulative ways. How they subliminally appeal to emotions to create a sense of need (when there truly isn’t one) is borderline unethical. It certainly is not emblematic of character and integrity. But whoever said that was why they exist? An ugly world out there when we peel back some of the seemingly beautiful scenes. Thank you for surfacing this poignant theme!

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