Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Personal Study: What creates our perceptions of the world?

It is our memories and previous experiences, and how these play a role in forming the character of a person, which determine whether a person is more inclined to be pessimistic or optimistic, for example, and these qualities and general character traits will filter through to how one perceives the world.

Our perceptions of reality is clearly something that has always fascinated and continues to fascinate me. This is clear to see when looking at my body of work and especially so in a Personal Study I undertook as part of my A-Level Photography course back in 2008. 

Having recently undertaking The Art of Photography online course and orchestrating my 365 FRAMES 2015 project - a video alternative to my earlier 366 FRAMES 2012 photo a day project - photography has been something that has been weighing very prominently within my mind. As such I have found myself being drawn back to my earlier experiences of photography during my A-level course, an opportunity I really failed to take full advantage of at the time.

A short reflection on my rediscovery of this Personal Study - 365 FRAMES 2015: Day 040

When I came across this Personal Study, I was very surprised to see that it so strongly deals with the issue of human perception and memory - mainly because I had forgotten that these were the themes I dealt with in my second year of studying photography. I had come to believe that this fascination, on an academic level, was only a recent one, as demonstrated in my award-winning theoretical dissertation and practical dissertation projects. 

However, it is now clear to see this is a topic that runs deep with myself and is most probably that something inside - something to do with film - I have been exploring all of this time.

I have presented each section of the original study in this single post. Just bare in mind that this comes from a period when my writing was legibly okay, but not great.



Chapter One 
How do our memories create our perceptions of the world?

Chapter Two
How did David Hockney and Faye Heller influence my work?

Chapter Three
How did I explore my theme in my own photography?




Within this personal study I shall conduct an investigation into the theme that I have been exploring and which is concerned with memory. The study will be split across three chapters and each will deal with an individual facet concerned with my theme. I shall explore the very essence of my theme of memory and use further study to supply it with an academic grounding. I will explore the influences of my own work and will focus upon two specific influences and photographers: David Hockney and Faye Heller. I will take one example of work from each and then deconstruct it to determine what is each photographer’s visual style and philosophy.  Then I shall focus upon my own work and will use two examples of my work to establish how my theme has manifested itself visually. 

Chapter One
How do our memories create our perceptions of the world?

There is a common acceptance among all human beings that each is its own and distinct from one another. Yet what faculty allows a particular person to be known as an individual who is single; separate or original from another? For a person can appear physically similar to another, can have similar habits and inhibitions to others and may even have the same name of another. 

“Man is the sum total of his own thoughts” 

- Charles F. Haanel, (1912)

Therefore, the emblem which supplies a person with their individuality must be found internally to that person. Thus, it is fundamentally and philosophically attributed that is the   background and personal experiences that supply every person with a status of individuality.  Simply then, Haanel Is stating that it is the memory which separates one individual from another.  

“It is above all in memory that duration exhibits itself, for in memory the past survives in the present” 
- Henri Bergson, (1896) 

Memories not only allow the person to have individual status they also allow that individual to perceive, experience and ultimately contemplate the world.  Consider a situation where all conscious life was devoid of memories and lacked the ability to create them. Suddenly then what would exist would be entire universe that lacked meaning because there would be no conscious life to give it meaning for they would be unable to recall the universe they were observing; thus according to Bergson it is memory that allows everything in the universe to be contemplated and, in the process, attain a meaning.

“Mental models are representations that constitute a working model of the real world, although they may be incomplete or simplified. They are derived from perception and from verbal information.” 
- Johnson Laird, (1983)  

Memory informs the perceptions of the individual on an absolute and fundamental basis. It is our memories and previous experiences and how these played a role in forming the character of a person that will determine whether a person is more inclined to be pessimistic or optimistic, for example, and these qualities and general character traits will filter through to how one perceives the world.  While there exist an external world Laird and most other Psychologists argue that every individual forms there own personal version of the world with in the mind. 

“The mental model plays a central and unifying role in representing objects status of affairs, sequences, the way the world is, and the social and psychological actions of daily life.”  

- Johnson Laird, (1983)

According to Laird, it is within this mental model of the world that the conscious and especially the unconscious powers are allows to mould it into whatever fashion and form the previous experiences and character traits incline the individual to perceive the world as being. This is how the individual attributes meaning and function to the external world around them. For parallel to the physical world there is a non physical mental world within the individual’s mind which is continuously gaining a greater meaning as memory affords it with further attributes.  As this mental model is a part of the individual’s mind it is, therefore, apart of the human character. Thus, when a person makes judgments and opinions upon the world they attribute what their character knows onto this model and use their memories and experiences to draw conclusions and opinions onto the world.  

“They enable individuals to make inferences and predictions, to understand phenomena, to decide what actions to take and to control its execution and, above all, to experience events by proxy.” 
- Johnson Laird, (1983)

When this occurs the individual perceives the world as they would like to see it and reject everything they do not want to perceive. The memory and character traits afford the world properties of how a person would like to view the world and from this are born personal opinions. 

Chapter Two
How did David Hockney and Faye Heller influence my work?

During the course of this chapter I will be exploring and analysing the works of David Hockney and Faye Heller. The chapter will deal with specific examples of their work and will ultimately determine what were the influences and driving forces behind both their works. 

David Hockney 

Scrabble, Hollywood -1 January 1983.

“When is the present/ When did the past end and the present occur and when does the future start? Ordinary photography has one way of seeing only, which is fixed, is if there is a kind of an objective reality, which simply cannot be. Picasso… knew that every time you look there’s something different. There is so much there but we’re not seeing it, that’s the problem.”
- David Hockney

David Hockney has a keen impulse to support photography as an important and vital art from. Life according to Hockney is vast and varied and can never be observed in precisely the same fashion from one time to the next. Photography in Hockney’s view, allows the spectator to capture some of these missed moments or details. Hockney states that the photograph is a medium in which much more of the world can be discovered: “every time you look theres something different”. In the photograph above, he has taken an image of reality and fragmented and broadened it. By doing this he is displaying a visual story board that tells a narrative. This idea is very much in keeping with the aesthetics of post modernism and by fragmenting the image Hockney is essentially visually representing how man now seems to be in charge of nature. The idea that an individual can take a slice of time and dissect it and rearrange its facets presents man as controlling his own destiny.   

Hockney and his work influenced my own work very much through this philosophy he followed of focussing on the world from the stand point outside of time. This, therefore supplies his visual style as being somewhat surreal and alternative. Hockney employs this technique in order to show the spectator that they may be missing something of the world and its features. Hockney’s visual style allows the spectator to explore a certain facet of the world and reveal all of its infinite details. 

Initially a painter, Hockney, drew inspiration from poems and used these as guides to his images layout and subject matter, e.g. We two boys together clinging from the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman. His own style within these works is reminiscent of Picasso and Jean Dubuffet. These influences were later carried through into Hockney’s photography.

Faye Heller 

The Waiting Room

"If you had one thing, for example, the image of an architectural space by introducing an image of a person...would be the beginning of a movement." 

- Faye Heller 

Heller’s work is focused upon taking two different elements and molding them together in order to create a third refined and more striking visual presence. Heller is attempting is to take an image of an architecturally intriguing room, which would otherwise appear still and somewhat expressionless,  then by adding these two perspectives of a face has now allowed the image of the room to have an expression and reaction and therefore, to gain a movement.  

By presenting the faces within slits Heller brings to prominence and focuses on a single emotion and expression. Both faces appear to be presenting contempt towards one another and this creates a duality within the image upon which the room either acts as the external space where this dual of the eyes takes place or within the minds of these eyes and the room is an internal state of expression. 

This supplies Heller’s work with ambiguity and her approach is to allow the spectator to question her work and the meaning and intrigue that lay behind these visual presences. Heller’s work appears visually similar and somewhat inspired by film noir, such as the duality in the waiting room demonstrates, and this suggests that Heller’s work is a medium though which the spectator can question her work’s intentions and through this question allow the spectator to question and look within them themselves as in relation to the world. Therefore, a statement about how the external world effects our own inhibitions and actions and how these are ultimately projected onto the world.

This philosophy has strong links to my own work for it concerns itself with internal personal states which I explored through memory, Heller’s work initially influenced my work through how she combines the human face to the physical surroundings. When viewing her images I took this as meaning the faces were projecting their own internal states unto the world. The surroundings, therefore, being projections of their own internal self; this links also to chapter one and the idea of the mental model.  

The subject treatment of Heller’s work is abstracted with a quite distinctive style of film noir. As such Heller’s work can be seen to take on an abstract surrealistic style that takes the normal, human faces and everyday surroundings, and constructs them in a manner that distorts and informs the spectator of an image that presents itself with a stark, sleek and expressionistic approach and fashion. Again, as with Hockney’s work, this can be seen to be a strong aesthetic within postmodernism. 

It can, therefore, be seen that David Hockney and Faye Heller both influenced my own work, Hockney through his philosophy and Heller through the visual presence of her images. 

Chapter Three
How did I explore my theme in my own photography?

The theme I have explored has concerned itself with memory and the functioning and implications that are there concerned. Through the briefs I have conducted and the images I created the message that has been building and which has been communicated is that of how memory is fundamental and integral to the daily existence and meaning of an individual. This idea I mainly drew through the influences of David Hockney and Faye Heller.

Ancient Sight.

Initially, what struck me as intriguing about the process of memory is the ability it has to distort, to change and to mould memories so that the end result which is remembered is different to how it actually appears in reality. I, therefore, used this as my first footing into exploiting the concept of memory. Basically, the above image displays a certain feature of an area I once lived in and here it is presented how I can visually remember it; not how it actually appears. The image, I feel, fairly and effectively represents the scene as I remember it and it is because of this very reason that I am pleased with the end result. The angle, the depth and the tone all perfectly represent the memory I have. 

The image draws its influence from my own fascinations with memory and the power it has to distort our memories. Yet, this idea I find has strong links to the works of David Hockney. This idea of the memory becoming distorted and changed across time supplies the image with a sense of timelessness. Hockney’s work also can be seen to approach its subjects from a non-linear approach outside of time. The idea could be seen not that dissimilar to Faye Heller’s work wherein she uses the image to distort reality to allow the spectator to view things in a different light. My work, here, can thus be seen to tie into postmodernism through the way it distorts reality much in the same way as Hockney and Heller fragment their work’s visual presence. Influences are also drawn from High Art Aesthetics and the idea of how I have used the method of making the image have a sepia effect.   

The image, however, could have been approached differently by using a method I explored in one of my briefs; this being the photographic method of photomontage. For this could have been used to further emphasize and strengthen the idea of memory having the ability to become distorted. For this would allow the image to become truly distorted and abstracted much to the same effect that time has upon memory, i.e. initially a memory is raw and true but over time it moulds with other memories and becomes a vague statement of the reality upon which it is based. 

The Three Matts

This image visually represents the idea of how memory affords the individual continuity and a continual existence. Therefore, the three figures represent the same person’s movements around the room across a period of time. Basically, the idea within the image is to highlight the fundamental power of memory, in that, it affords the individual a coherent existence.

The influences of this image are very strongly drawn from the work of David Hockney. Again, as I have already stated, Hockney’s philosophy of exploring his subject matter from a timeless approach that allows the spectator to see all the hidden details and things that would normally be missed supplied me with the idea of showing what people usually miss about memory. Hence, this is why I highlighted its fundamental quality and present three of the same figure which allows the image to form a perspective outside of time. 

One of the qualities I personally like about the image is its realistic quality, i.e. that it takes place within a realistic setting; together with realistic actions occurring. This supplies the image and the message which it is conveying a closer connection to the spectator because it grounds and brings the image and its message down to earth, for the message literally places itself within the spectator’s kitchen. However, saying this, one of my original intentions for the image was to use a slow exposure to allow the image to visually represent the ghostlike movements of one of the figures into another. This I feel would present the message of the image in a clearer light as the spectator would more immediately and literally latch onto the image showing the passage of time. Though, the image as it is does contain an ambiguity which acts as a further connection and emphasis to all the ambiguous fundamental qualities of life.   

Through these images I have established a sincere fascination with memory and within each image I have been exploring the function and implications of memories and have here expressed their fundamental qualities to the individual. 


Allowing my theme to be flourished and clarified with academic understanding I established that every person forms there own mental model of the world according to their perceptions and memories and it is from this that we establish opinions. Exploring the works of two of my influences I have established that David Hockney influenced me through his philosophy of photography which is to use it as a medium through which a non linear perspective of the world can be seen in which the entire world’s hidden details can be revealed. Faye Heller’s influence, on the other hand, was through the visual presences she created within her images and how they rely very strongly upon the internal state of an individual and also of those of the spectator. Both photographers have adopted very different visual styles and philosophies but through each I found influences for my own work. 

Then, using two examples of my own work I established what my theme was actually communicating. I came to the conclusion that with my theme I was exploring one of the most fundamental qualities of the human being and that is the ability to recall the world; the very ability that supplies an individual with opinions and a life made up of a stream of memories. Therefore, my images essentially present the narrative of life; being made up of different moments and materials and as with post modernism it consists of fragmented moments with infinite details expressed upon both the internal and external worlds. 



Bergson, H. History of Western Philosophy, George Allen Unwin Ltd, pg 718.

Haanel, C.F. http://taoism.about.com/od/themasterkey/a/MasterKey5_4.htm, 10/01/08.

Hockney, D.
http://www.photoquotes.com/ShowQuotes.aspx?id=415&name=Hockney,David, 15/01/08

Heller, F. http://www.bentleypublishinggroup.com/bios/heller.html, 17/01/08 

Laird, J. Memory in the Real World, Psychology Press Ltd, pg 52.


Hockney D. Scrabble Hollywood, http://www.vam.ac.uk/images/image/5205-popup.html, 15/01/08.

Heller, F. The Waiting Room, http://www.fayeheller.co.uk/details.php?image_id=21&cat=1, 17/01/08

Post a Comment