The image – of whatever the medium might be – is a vehicle to tell a story (I refer to story in the broadest possible sense – including information).
The person creating the image will have an impact on the observer of that image. It can stimulate change, influence emotions and educate the viewer in ways that cannot be achieved by words alone. Once the image has been created, it takes on a life of its own. The creator loses control – all s/he does is set the plot through the visual and the stories that emerge take on a life of their own through the different viewers.
We are constantly looking at the world, attempting to create meaning and navigate our way through the influx of visual information that surrounds us in all its complex detail.
Images are created to provide viewers with the option of meaning making within the culture we exist.
In a single glance of an image, we can recognize and categorize many of the individual objects; identify the different environments; as well as perceive complex activities and social interactions captured within the visual.
Visual commentary is powerful and enables the viewer to construct meaning to a finer granularity not permitted with text or the spoken word.
If we were asked to tell the story of each image below, the point of departure will most probably be similar (stimulated by the basic elements of the image). But, very quickly, we will have unique stories flowing and there will be as many stories as there are viewers. The deeper meaning is dependent on individuals’ unique reality and worldview. The story that we reconstruct around the image is uniquely different and personal.
This is essentially the poststructuralist’s claim – there is no grand narrative. Reality is subjective and, as humans, we negotiate our understanding of the world amongst each other. This sense making process never ends. We tell stories and retell them in order to keep abreast of change and we use creativity as the rudder through our visual sense making world through stories.
The images below are by the Dutch photographer, Teun Hocks. What stories do you construct around each visual? Does your friend tell the same story? Is this a problem or has the world just become more interesting because of the difference between two views of the world? Also, we will become better critical thinkers and that is because we are forced to engage rather than simply be passive and accept what others will have us believe.