How Images Frame

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“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.

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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.

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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

Images and Feelings

Image credit: Louie Favorite Terri Gurrola is reunited with her daughter after having served in Iraq for seven months.

Image credit: Louie Favorite
Terri Gurrola is reunited with her daughter after having served in Iraq for seven months.

“Feelings are not supposed to be logical. Dangerous is the man who has rationalized his emotions.” ~ David Borenstein

Though we differ in the way we look at things and what we believe in, there is something we share: emotion. Human emotion is innate in all of us; it is something we are born with and something we die with. Happiness, sadness, love, hatred, worries and indifference – these are things that constantly occur in our daily lives.

As human beings we are all born with awareness. We can be aware of our environment, aware of our thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Yet self-awareness cannot be taken for granted. It can easily be lost. When emotions overwhelm, we can lose touch with our conscious awareness. So it’s important to recognize and manage our feelings. Most of us know that acknowledging our feelings is both healthy and a necessary step toward regaining our composure and clarifying our perspectives.

Image credit: Mark Pardew / Reuters A firefighter givrs water to a koala during the devastating Black Saturday brush fires that burned across Victoria, Australia, in 2009.

Image credit: Mark Pardew / Reuters
A firefighter gives water to a koala during the devastating Black Saturday brush fires that burned across Victoria, Australia, in 2009.

We frequently say a “picture is worth a thousand words”, but sometimes they are worth even more. A photographers lens can capture scenes that take us into deep emotional journeys, evoking feelings that range from uplifting joy to utter sadness. The thought-provoking power of images often starts us on a journey of feelings that exceed “a thousand words” with ease. Images capture moments filled with raw emotion and powerful stories and they frequently raise questions about how we feel and what we can do. This, in turn, can prompt compassion and action, but that’s for another post.

Internationally acclaimed photographer Sandro Miller said, “If you don’t look at photography and begin to think and wonder, and be able to start an intelligent dialogue with someone about the work, then I guess I haven’t done my job. I want people to really be able to go deep in their hearts and begin to feel things.”

Photo credit: Getty Images Helen Fisher kisses the hearse carrying the body of her 20-yar-old cousin Private Douglas Halliday, as he and six other fallen soldiers are brought through the town of Wootton Bassett in England.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Helen Fisher kisses the hearse carrying the body of her 20-year-old cousin Private Douglas Halliday, as he and six other fallen soldiers are brought through the town of Wootton Bassett in England.

Perhaps it is a photograph or a traumatic experience that triggers your emotions. Self-awareness and reflection yield feelings, too. People who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts and feelings. And they have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life.

For you consideration, here are some thought-provoking questions. When answered, think about how they make you feel:

  • Why do you matter?
  • What will you not tolerate?
  • How have you been a role model to someone?
  • What makes you likable?
  • What are three life lessons you learned the hard way?
  • What makes you uncomfortable?
  • What fulfills you more than anything else?
Image credit: via hfcsd.org Jewish prisoners at the moment of their liberation from an internment camp "death train" near the Elbe in 1945.

Image credit: via hfcsd.org
Jewish prisoners at the moment of their liberation from an internment camp “death train” near the Elbe in 1945.