It is commonly known that, in most circumstances, people look at an image for only about 2 seconds and then wander on to the next, for another 2 seconds, and so on. I, too, can find myself rushing through image galleries when browsing the works of other artists on the net. There is just so much!
Considering the time, money, thought, and possibly lengthy conceptual visualization that we have invested in the creation of the image, this may be rather disappointing.
For sure, with the boundless imagery that is made to pass us by every day, it is unreasonable to think we could spend any length of time deeply viewing, exploring, experiencing every single image we encounter. Just think of the literally flashing-by imagery of commercials and the magazines with hundreds of similar looking images repeated with every week’s issue.
Yet, the instant and speedy consumption of imagery is maintained in environments such as galleries and museums, when leafing through photography books dedicated to exceptional image craft, and even in exhibitions of print competitions have I seen the audience strolling along the lines of prints no different than as if leisurely enjoying the local park, glancing at the prints merely in passing. In these environments, people have put themselves for the very purpose of looking at and experiencing the images on display.
Is it then a lack of interest in the potential depth of experience that a well created image can provide? Or a misunderstanding of the role of imagery as simply another goods of quick entertainment? Maybe there is a lack of having been taught, by example, the wealth and value of Arts in general? Is it just that more training and experience is needed in how to look at images, what to look for, what an image can provide, evoke, enhance in your own life?
Likely it is a combination of all of the above, and certainly, in any case, it is up to us, the image makers, to also supply some of the how-to of looking at, experiencing, and appreciating our image work.
Still, even without any intent of artistic experience, there will, occasionally, be an image that can cause a person to a sudden stop, a brief hesitation to rush on, a moment of looking again at some particular image.
Is this a moment of recognition or of questioning? Maybe a glimpse of something not superficially apparent in the image? A sense of feeling an image, of resonating with it outside of pure consumption and entertainment?
In a Miksang- Contemplative approach to the process of seeing this moment might be considered a flash of perception; pure perception, that is, before our mind slips a label over it, or makes a concept out of the perception, or adds an interpretation by means of intellectual process.
There are many ways, of course, by which a person may sense a resonance with an image. It may be the subject depicted, the location, the emotion of a person in the image, or the type of scene that causes recognition, memory, familiarity, or also opposition, questioning, or like or dislike.
Mood, as purveyed through colour palette, light and dark and contrast, graphic elements and patterns, textures, lines and shapes in the image can all become sources of resonance for an individual viewer to experience the image on a more intimate and intricate level.
Often, the cause and reason for our being drawn to, resonating with, a certain image may not even become apparent. We simply sense a “… wow!! “ and “ … ohhh I like this one … !! … “ or we simply stand and absorb and would not be able to put into words what in the image actually makes us feel as we do. This is perfectly fine, maybe often even more than fine, as we do not need to intellectualize every experience in our lives. When an image can make us experience the silence within, it speaks of something beyond words.
We, being the image makers, might, however, do well to contemplate what in an image are the subtle or not-so-subtle visual means to make people look beyond 2 seconds.
Chances are that in the process of such contemplation, we also enhance the understanding of our lives in general. After all, learning to appreciate art can lead to appreciating and respecting life and the world in its multitude of manifestations, including ourselves, and that, I have no doubt, will be of benefit to All.