Welcome to my blog. On this page you will find articles I personally write about the photography industry and my work. You will also see blogs showing the photos from many of my photo sessions.
Here’s how photography helps shape our self-image, for better or for worse.
It’s no secret that humans are visual creatures. There are more neurons dedicated to visual processing than there are for all our other senses combined. Our ability to quickly parse data from our visual field and act accordingly have been indispensable in our survival as a species. Neuroscientists at MIT even report that the human brain is capable of identifying an image in as little as 13 milliseconds. They say that kind of processing speed is crucial in our brain determining where we dart our eyes next and therefore apply our focus. And if all this goes to say that an extraordinary amount of our brain’s energy and resources are dedicated to visual processing, then you’d better believe the images that we process matter as well. Read on to find out how photography helps shape our self image over the years, and augment our experience in the moments that comprise them.
While there definitely exists a range of temperament within the human species (think introverts and extroverts), humans as a whole are no doubt a social species. No other creature in the animal kingdom comes even remotely close to the kind of social interaction that humans are capable of. And that comes at a price. It means from the moment we are born, our brains are constantly taking
stock of where we stand in relation to our peers, and otherwise. To our brains, it’s merely a matter of survival. And the evidence is resoundingly clear on the importance of socialization in the formation of a productive adult, capable of acting for the goodwill of society. In our early stages of development, social interaction isn’t merely an optimal parameter, it’s a necessary one.
This means that a sense of belonging too, is crucial to the development of a well functioning adult. There is actually deep, deep, neurochemistry embedded in our brains to help facilitate this. Scientists have observed that when humans watch someone else do almost anything, the same neurons in our brain that are associated with doing that action activate as well, even though we aren’t doing the action ourselves. In respect to this phenomenon, these neurons are known as “mirror neurons.” And they’re actually incredibly monumental in developing
our ability to empathize with others. In the same way, they’re tremendously impactful in developing our ability to read people, and therefore know where we
stand. From the womb, we’re hardwired to socialize with others to learn critical information about ourselves and our survival.
Now that we’ve discussed the critical importance of socialization in bringing up happy, healthy adults, where does photography come into play? Well, to people of all ages (but especially children) a photograph is a poignant symbol of where one does belong. As any parent would know, the first thing a child points to in a yearbook is themselves, wherever they appear. In fact, as a child yourself, you probably remember getting a hold of the yearbook for the first time that year, scouring all its pages for every last cameo appearance you made. A photo very often says something about group identity. Even if the photo is merely a portrait of a single person, the place that photo is displayed (or not displayed) says all kinds of things about one’s group identity. And the brain is no fool.
You see, because humans are such social creatures, a group identity has astronomical effects on the well-being and development of a child. A picture with the baseball team says that you’re no outcast. A photo of you standing with a trophy says that you’re a winner worth remembering. A family portrait says that you belong with the people closest to you. And you may be thinking, “Well, I know all these things. I don’t need a photo to tell me that.” And you’re right. But in the wrong way. Because as humans (and especially adults) we know all sorts of things in our head that never seem to trickle down to our core beliefs and subconscious. Have you ever gone into a store to return a broken item? And you know that none of the employees there are individually responsible for your loss…but you know it’s definitely not your fault. And despite what you know in your head, you can’t help but be a little brash or impatient as you try to correct the damages. It’s like that. We know all sorts of things consciously, but our subconscious mind is closer to a toddler in behavior. “Knowing” just isn’t enough, however witty or simple the explanation. Our brain doesn’t want to just hear that we’re loved, it wants to see us on the mantle next to the people that love us. And that’s just one way that photography
can help speak to the deeper parts within us, and let us know that we belong.
Much has changed in the world of photography over the years. And even predating its conception, the concept of self-image has been continuously evolving over the millennia as well. At a time, even a bronze mirror was a luxury only the wealthiest could afford. In just the last 100 years, our ability to capture an image of ourselves has really broken way into immortality. And really, that’s
what it is. That’s what photography is all about. You want something to last. And what kind of things do you want to last, may I ask? The things that matter. Even in a world today, where for many a selfie may come easier than a sip of water, the moments we choose to immortalize still matter. And that’s why it’s important that we keep living them. Interestingly enough, there is a phenomenon emerging today, where the act of taking a photo is more about how others perceive the photo, than immortalizing the moment itself. It’s sort of the “instagram-itis” that keeps us from putting out anything but the best photos. But as any photographer could tell you, when photos are taken like that, sometimes they lose a certain life or energy. They become artificial, perfect, and staged. Having a dedicated photographer around lets you get out from behind the camera, and back into living the moment. A professional photographer is an expert at capturing that magic moment (whatever it is), and letting that life, that energy come through the photo, letting you shine.
Introvert, extrovert…whoever you may be, you cannot deny the importance of symbols in your life that say that you matter. In all walks of life, a sense of belonging is paramount in our becoming that which we wish to be. And while we’ve got many senses, nothing quite does it like sight. After all, “seeing is believing,” they say. So the next time you pull out your phone to take a quick selfie with a group of friends, take a moment to understand why that matters. It’s because you matter.