In effect , photography is a tool for the blind. Because of our deep relationship with the animal world, our brain is wired exclusively to detect motion. In a natural state, we pay little or no attention to anything static because it offers little to no threat. We actually have to make a dedicated decision to focus our eyes and attention to something that is not in motion. Thus, in our everyday lives, we notice all the little things that move around us and hardly what doesn’t. Advertising has known that for years thus the reason you have neon signs, commercials on tv and those annoying flashing banners on websites. But there is more to our blindness. Even as we pay attention to movement, we quickly identify patterns from which we can draw conclusions. We never, ever pay attention to an infinitesimal portion of the actions. Why would we ? We have to think about our security first.
What the camera captures is both immobility and a slice of a motion. Two elements we are completely blind to. Even if we had witnessed the same events, from the same location as the photographer, it is extremely doubtful that we would have noticed what appears on the image. That fraction of second, for us, was lost in overall interpretation of an action, with the end result probably being, for us, the most important part. This is where photography cures our animalistic blindness . It allows us to stop, for as long as we wish, and focus into an infinitesimal fraction of a motion and analyze it freely. We are drawn to making our own conclusions on what the outcome could have been but, quite frankly, it doesn’t matter much. What we revel into is the ability that we do not have to . The frozen frame moment becomes almost more important than the whole action altogether and opens up an entirely new dimension to our thinking. We no longer have to manage our primal flight or fight reaction but rather reach out to our cultural background to seek out better understanding. And we even process the image as part of our memory which we often, later on, confuse with real living moments.
This necessary blindness, that has allowed us, for millennia, to survive in hostile environments, is what photography cures. By focusing our attention on immobility, on the static, on the motionless, it allows us to see things like we never did before and interpret events outside of our instincts and into our cultural intelligence. No longer are we seeking an immediate reaction but rather a long term thought process that will help us draw more mature decisions. Our reactions are no longer driven by a desperate need to survive but by, rather, our understanding. We are no longer blind to the infinitesimal details that overwhelmingly populate our world and image by image, we become more intelligent. We start making connections that were previously impossible for us to complete as we were lacking the proper information. We elevate ourselves, image per image, from our ancestral animal condition and start looking at our surrounding world with new understanding.
From our little nephew’s birthday to the civil war in the Middle East, every event is open for new understanding as long as a photographer is present. Even if we are not always seeking it, we are now relentlessly asked to reposition our perception of the surrounding world, every time we see a photograph. The great news is that there is no escaping it. The bad news is that sometimes, those images lie. But by adapting our maturing sense of visual intelligence, it is getting easier to spot the deceptions. Relentlessly, we are becoming, thanks to photography, the unblind.