Everything you can imagine is real. -Pablo Picasso
I use the term “image” to refer to a digital replication. Such that are viewed on a digital device like your computer or other personal digital device. I use the term “photograph” to refer to an actual physical print. One that you can hold in your hand or hang on your wall. This post is more concentrated on the image. Like the images you view on this site or any other internet site. Which is the way most images are consumed these days. These same principles certainly apply to a photograph. Whether a small photograph you can hold or a large print hanging on a wall.
I make a distinction between the two not to be nit-picky about things, but to make a clear separation between the two forms of media. The differences may seem very small to most folks. That is until you actually hold a print in your hands or view a finished piece being displayed. The difference are nearly as vast as day and night. However you chose to view visual art the main thing is to explore, discover, and enjoy. In either case benefits can be had.
Only a small percentage of folks actually study things like art. The reasons can vary tremendously as to why. The very term “study art” seems to imply it must be something studied to understand like calculus or astrophysics. Thank goodness this is not the case. Most of us, myself included simply like looking at art of all kinds. Visual art, things like paintings, sculpture, images, photographs, and physical art of many different forms are meant to be enjoyed visually among other possible ways. It’s the second most important aspect of their existence. The first being the personal expression by the creator. Other forms of art, such as music are not visually perceptible at all and rely on the audible production and thus recording as their media.
Side not: I have never thought of this until this very moment. We can enjoy art with our eyes and ears. Are there other ways to enjoy art? Can we enjoy, or at least experience art in something like touch or even smell? Think velvet, or fresh baked bread. Hmm.
Reality can be beaten with enough imagination. -Mark Twain
Before I fall down a rabbit hole in digression let me cut to the point. Have you ever given much thought to viewing an image? Do you look at it and think, that’s nice, or I don’t really care for that. Or something in between such as indifference? Indifference is probably worse than even not liking something. How long do you spend looking at something you like? Have you every looked at an image on your computer for a minute (60 seconds), or two minutes, or five minutes? Does that sound silly? Or even unnecessary?
Do you ever question why you feel the way you do about an image (or photograph) you view? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, I believe most people don’t question why they like a picture at all. Not in the slightest. They look at it, make a comment, or have a thought, and move on. To me, that is what seems silly. Why look at something if you have no reason to. Or even know why your looking at it, or enjoying it, or disliking it. You would probably be better off going fishing, or even taking a nap.
Do you ever expect something in return by looking at an image. I hope you do. There can be great benefit if you take the time to understand what you want to experience. Allow me to bring this closer to home. My home anyway. Have you ever driven a highway, at highway speeds, through, lets say Kansas along I-70 and think, not much in Kansas to see. And act as if that small, quick, temporary look along that specific roadway was all there was to see? Of course this can apply to nearly any place in the world. Kansas does have a reputation as “fly over county”. Which lends itself to this perfectly. I hope you see where I’m going with this.
You should never view an image as if you are traveling a highway and needing to get from where you are to where you want to be as quickly as possible. If you have ever been to an art gallery did you walk in make a circle around the place non-stop and then leave? What would even be the point in that? If you don’t have much time, or at minimum a small amount of dedicated time to view an image or a group of images it would be best to not view any at all. If you don’t you can always come back to an image when you do have time. But if you rush and hurry to move on to the next thing, whatever that thing is, you are probably cheating yourself out of the experience that can actually be had.
The Experience of Viewership
There are some fundamental basics that can help enhance your experience of viewing of an image. First, when you discover an image online that you would like to look at, open that image as large as you can for the device you are viewing it on. Usually this is as simple as clicking on the image. Sometimes there may be an expand or maximize icon that will open the image larger. Some photographers and photo sites don’t allow the image to be made very large. This is because many fear someone will save the online image and use it without the photographers permission. I get that, but I am not going to deprive viewers of the possibly enjoyment because someone, somewhere, may use it without my knowledge or consent. I prefer to keep images larger and hopefully allow for a better viewing experience.
Try to put yourself in the presence of the image. Is it a grand scene where you can see far into the distance? Do you notice things that are close, a little further away, and then in the distance? Then look at the entire scene as a whole. Is there a slight breeze blowing on your face? Are there sounds of nature you can hear? Maybe its a more intimate scene that places you in closer surroundings. Could you imagine reaching out and touching something you notice in the image? What do you think it would feel like? Is it an imitate look at a specific object, patterns, textures, or shape? Do you notice anything in the shadows if you look closer? Is there one or two thing that makes you keep looking at it? What are they and why.
The idea here is to have a little imagination. Or a lot, its up to you. To imagine yourself as part of the scene. To imagine the clear cool air brushing across our face as you stand surrounded by the prairie, forest, desert, or mountains. Or the smell of the prairie sage in summertime. Or the salt water air as the foamy edges of the sea make their way up the sandy shore. Or cold frigid air sweeping across the snow. Or the need to squint your eyes as the sun sparkles off the reflecting waters of a stream or lake. By doing these things, have some imagination the image is no longer just bunch of lines, colors, and tones. It begins to build an experience in your mind.
These are the easy parts of viewing an image. We all have imagination. We use it constantly. The stories we tell ourselves in our minds while doing any number of mundane tasks each day. You just need to put this imagination to use when viewing an image.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere. -Carl Sagan
As said, the imagining should be the easy part. We all have that ability. The hard part, well that’s a different story. The hard part is time. Or more precisely allowing time. Purposefully slowing down, having patience, and practicing things like stillness. I say this is hard because in this day and age at any give moment online there may be a dozen or more things screaming for your attention all at the same time. We feel compelled to look at as much content as possible and as quickly as possible. Because if we don’t we’re told we will be missing out. Do you go to a social media site, look at one nice image and then leave? Probably not. Because there might be something else to look at if you just keep scrolling and scrolling. You are afraid of missing out on something.
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -Albert Einstein
If I get nothing else across here, I hope I can make this one most important thing clear. You are not missing anything by slowing down. You will not miss anything by being patient. You will not miss anything in next pretty picture if you take time to enjoy the one in front of you now. You will gain tremendous personal insight in the practice of quiet stillness. And last but not least, you will begin to appreciate an image you once thought was nice to look at and now understand it can actually have a positive meaning and possibly providing a beneficial personal experience, even if only imaginary. And this experience, if you chose to engage in it. Will be uniquely yours.