What Do We Feel When We Look At a Photo?

”Why do we like or dislike a photo?”,¬†”What are the stages of evaluating a photo?”, ”What do we think when we look at a photo?” I will try to find answers for such questions.

When we look at a photo, our evaluations are ordered from subjective to objective. If we do not experience hesitation during our subjective evaluation, meaning if there is no subjective idea that pushes us to make a comment about the photo positively or negatively, we proceed to the objective evaluation stages.

Prejudice is a primary subjective evaluation. Our prejudices not only play an active role when we look at a photo, but they also do so in determining all our behaviors. For instance, ”I know that photographer, all of his/her photos are very beautiful. So, I like this photo of his a lot, too.” or opposite views are the signs that we evaluate the photos with our subjective prejudices.

Our values and the ideology that we have are important factors for our evaluations. Although it is a successful work and a fair criticism, we may dislike a photo thinking that it is an affront to our faith, or we may like an unsuccessful photo that criticizes an ideology that we disapprove of.

Another factor is memories. Our memories are what make us who we are and are our cherished history. While making a decision, we first think about our previous experiences. When we look at a photo, we scan our history and see if there is something related to us. The house in the photo might reminds us of our grandmother’s house where we had memories. Even if it is not very impressive, we might like a photo of Marseille’s streets just because because it reminds us of a girl that we once fell in love with and the city where we had good memories and the streets where we walked hand in hand.

The common feature of the great artists’ such photos is that they focus on universal values such as love, life, death, conscience and motherhood which have existed in all societies from the very beginning of the history.

If a photo can successfully pass all the subjective evaluation stages, it means that it is qualified for an objective evaluation. We all know the objective factors that make a photo ‘beautiful’. Light, composition, frame, focal point etc. Despite the fact that subjective evaluations are of primary importance for a photo, most photos pass these stages. In other words, a successful work making good use of light, composition, frame and focal point will be liked by most people. However, these features alone are not enough to make it a masterpiece. There are some photos that have been seen and liked by so many people that we cannot help ourselves expressing our admiration every time we look at them. Everyone feels something special by looking at such photos. The light and composition of the photo also add to what they feel. The common feature of the great artists’ such photos is that they focus on universal values such as love, life, death, conscience and motherhood which have existed in all societies from the very beginning of the history.

When assessing their own photos, photographers become the prisoners of the feelings they had when they were taking those photos.

What about a photographer’s feelings when they assess their own photos? Taking into consideration the fact that the photo has been taken by them and that they have a subjective perspective of every photo, how can we expect them to make an objective evaluation? I have spent much time and put a lot of effort when taking some of my photos. I almost feel as if I got behind Mount Cafcuh and spent a year there for a phoenix to alight on a branch in the morning light. Then someone takes a look at the photo and almost throws it away, or I see that way. ”How does that happen?” I ask myself. This photo should have been very beautiful. For the most part, when assessing their own photos, photographers become the prisoners of the feelings they had when they were taking those photos.¬†Sometimes the same mechanism lies behind the fact that a friend of yours loves one of your photos that even you dislike or that one of your favorite photos is disliked by a friend whose ideas your cherish.

The moment you look at a photo forms a very special relation between you and the photo and, in fact, each photo is a journey that we take upon ourselves.

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5 Comments What Do We Feel When We Look At a Photo?

  1. Sara October 8, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Although I’m not sure I completely agree with your comments regarding objective and subjective evaluations, I really like what you say about the photographer’s relationship to his own photos. I can imagine that there is often a very strong emotional bond between the photographer and his subject and this may or may not be transmitted to the viewer. It is quite common to look at stunning photos of animals, for example, and forget how many weeks or months, or even years it took for the photographer to obtain these photos.

    Reply
    1. Tunart October 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks Sara for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  2. Willy October 9, 2015 at 3:59 am

    I feel like photos I see of other people not associated with my past are heightened when it has to do with the archtypes. Photos that strike a chord from my past do so because of either the nostalgia or memories positive or negative. When I see a shot that just speaks to me, it’s usually because of the breathtaking beauty of nature.

    Reply
    1. Tunart October 9, 2015 at 5:47 am

      Because nature has a special place in all creatures’ evolutionary memory.

      Reply
  3. Jake October 20, 2015 at 4:44 am

    Yes you are right. When we are assessing the photos taking by our self, we do become the prisoners of the feelings that we had at the very moment of taking that photo. I drives in all the same emotions which we had at that point of time. Is all so nostalgic.

    Reply

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