What we see matters. What we make out of what we see is critical.The act of looking involves seeing and interpreting the information at the same time. Because our brain simply can’t notice everything that is in our visual field, it has to be selective in what it pays attention to, hence do visual prioritization. What we notice is highly individual and depends on the things that we in the past deemed as important. For example take the picture on the left – a hairdresser will notice details about the model’s hair, a furniture designer will notice a table and a carpet and might even know the brand of that table, a graphic designer might notice the colors in the room and picture composition.
But we also zone out lots of information that we unconsciously deemed as less important. We often miss small and big details of a picture that might be important in analyzing the whole. Just because we didn’t notice something doesn’t mean it is not there. Did you notice if the model had earrings on and if she did, what kind? What color were her nails?
Once we’ve seen and actively noticed things we begin our interpretation of what we saw. Even here we tend to interpret what we’ve seen according to our own values and past experiences. It is in this stage that a split second frozen in time by a camera is given an interpretation in the real world. We try to fit that split second into a narrative that would make sense for us. It is hard to resist not to interpret – we are wired for stories and try to find stories wherever possible.
Looking at the picture on the left one might interpret it as “a nude model lying on a table” and completely omit any information about the sun, another one would add information about a sunlight, yet there is no evidence in the picture that the strong light we see is actually the sun. It could all be done in a studio set. We add things that were not there and omit things that were. Someone would interpret this picture as porn, erotic, or voyeur, vulgar, cheap, artistic – all that just based on subjective interpretation of a pose, level of nudity or settings. Too often we make interpretations without having complete information. We are too quick to fit facts that align with our perspective and dismiss facts that are contradictory.
It is ok to disagree on the interpretation of facts but we should be in agreement about the facts that exist. We are too quick to label things even when a label is not appropriate. As a culture, we might label sexually confident and active women as sluts, we might have a sexual policy at our office and we might think that being nude is a shameful act. Yet none of it is changing the fact that we are sexual creatures with a strong sexual drive an no label will change that fact. Just as we cannot make a lion into cat by deciding to not to use a word ‘lion’ again, we can’t pretend we can control human sexuality by putting a taboo on it, or put ourselves in an ignorance bubble.
To neglect our sexuality and build policies and cultures as if it is not there is naive. To recognize our sexuality and natural drive for sexual experiences in both genders and to build social systems supporting this fact is building for longevity and humanity. It is facts and arts that ignite and fuel human progress.
See Katya Clover’s full set “Can’t Breath”, or go back to Katya’s model page for more sets, or check out her own site.