“By grade 3 or 4 we stop visualizing things freely, put word-labels on them instead. By these labels we recognize everything, no longer see anything. We know the labels on the bottles, but never taste the wine”  –  Frederick Frank

“The real voyage of discovering consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”  – Marcel Proust

“In photography, as in all visual arts, we have to distinguish between the natural design we observe and the design we create, by eliminating, changing, abstracting and arranging the elements of  our composition. Painstakingly copying and re-creating the natural observation is mindless”  – Harvey Lloyd  (Hello, Mr. Bateman!)

“The key to seeing the world’s soul, and in the process wakening one’s own, is to get over the confusion by which we think that fact is real and imagination is an illusion……..It’s the other way around!”   –   Thomas Moore –  ‘The Original Self’

“Abstract thinking is another way of imagining – imagining is mental image making”

“The expressive quality of a photograph depends on the photographer’s ability to abstract, that is, to separate the parts from the whole. Abstracting is recognizing both, the basic form of something and the elements that make up that form”

“Black & White photography is like chiseling a diamond – it discards the inessential to reveal the substance”   –   Carol Devillers

“Art is lies that tell the truth”   –   Pablo Picasso

“The Best way to go into unknown territory is to go in ignorance”  –  Dorothea Lange

“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different”  –  Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

“In Order to see freely we must forget the names of what we are looking at”  – Claude Monet

“All photos are accurate.  None of them is the truth”   –   Richard Avedon

“If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn’t need to lug around a camera”     –   Lewis Hine

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow”   –  Imogen Cunningham

“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.”  –  Arnold Newman

“People say photographs don’t lie, nothing could be further from the truth.”    –   David


“Many pictures turn out to be limp translations of the known world instead of vital objects which create an intrinsic world of their own. There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph”    –  Robert Heinecken

“The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out. Every mind is a building filled with archaic furniture. Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.”    – Dee Hock

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”   –  Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

“No conservative ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. Conservatism is the stagnation of the mind”     –   Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

“Everything you can imagine is real.”    – Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973)

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

“There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth”   –  Richard Avedon

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it “creative observation.”  Creative viewing”   –  William S. Burroughs

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Art is knowing which ones to keep”    –   Scott Adams

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one”  –  Charles Horton Cooley

“When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work.  I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.  She stared at me, incredulous, and said, ‘You mean they forget?’”  – Howard Ikemoto

“No great artist ever sees things as they really are.  If he did, he would cease to be an artist”   –  Oscar Wilde

“Vision is not perception!                                                                                       Perception, and our concept of reality, is a product of the mind and brain, not the eyes. The eye is nothing more than an optical lens and an image detector, the retina. After that, what people’s brains do with the image is a rather individualistic process.  …Light falls on its photoreceptors, which then transmit electrical signals to a thin sheet of neurons that immediately begins to transform the pristine image that has fallen on the retina. Even before these signals leave the eye, they have already been changed in a way that is no longer an exact representation of the world…. the information travels down the optic nerve to the thalamus and is then transmitted to the cortex, where the ‘mental image’ is constructed. So called ‘reality’ is merely everyone’s personal interpretation or illusion. To be able to communicate we have to agree on the lowest common denominator of our individual ‘realities’, a vague and often confusing task.

Furthermore, the eye concentrates more on the centre of the image, missing many details at the periphery of the view and the brain makes assumptions about what it is seeing. It fills in the gaps by making guesses, based on your memory and past experiences, constructing the mental image.

In addition, our eyes are constantly jumping across the scene, scanning, taking snapshots, trying to assist constructing this mental image, like a puzzle. As an example, imagine a waterfall or crashing waves with foam and droplets thrown up in the air. Most people assume that a crisp, sharp picture of the droplets, frozen in mid-air, is ‘reality’, the ‘true’ representation of the world.

On the other hand, a blurry, fuzzy and out-of-focus appearance is considered ‘un-real’, a camera effect, achieved by using longer shutter speeds. As mentioned above, the human eye constantly scans the scene and records snapshots of approximately 1/30 of a second. This time span, as with cameras, is by far not fast enough to record fast moving objects crisp, to freeze action. Here is where our perception comes into play, where the brain constructs a mental image. Based on our memory of pictures,  taken with cameras set to 1/1000 of a second or faster, we only think that everything is sharp and crisp – a mental image, ‘seen’ or constructed by the brain only because we looked at sharp photos in the past, a phenomenon not possible before the invention of photography. The use of fast shutter-speeds, changed the concept, or illusion of reality.

We take for granted that our perceptions of the world are real, but they are really specters of our imagination, nothing more than biological and electrical rumblings that we believe to be real. The eye transmits raw information, but by the time you become aware of it, your brain has processed the information in many ways, creating a mental image that reaches your consciousness.

And finally, perception – what we think we see, the ‘mind’s eye’ – is not only the reason why people ‘see’ things differently, but is also one of the main reason they react differently, have different personalities, approach problems and challenges differently. Unlike in antiquated Freudian notions, we know now that the decisions humans make can be traced to the firing patterns of neurons made in specific parts of the brain. This new approach is known as ‘neuroeconomics’. It puts away with the idea of mind-body dualism that separates human decision making from the messiness of the physical body, as if the mind exists separately from our bodies.

Neuroeconomics was born out of the realization that the physical workings of the brain influence the way we make decisions. These discoveries make us understand human behavior and why some people seem to march to a different drumbeat. Perception is one of the main reasons, besides ‘fear response’ and ‘social intelligence’, for the existence of the ‘iconoclast’.

The iconoclast [Greek: destroyer of icons] is a person who does something that others say can’t be done. Consciously or not, he acknowledges the fact that creation is also a part of destruction. To create something new, you also have to tear down conventional ways of thinking, find the courage to let go of established rules. The iconoclast creates new opportunities in any area, from artistic expression to technology to business.

He vehemently opposes conservative thinking, the stagnation of fearful clinging to strategies of the past. He embodies traits of creativity and innovation that are not easily accomplished by committee. He eschews authority and convention. He thumbs his nose at rules.

Prof. Gregory Berns, Distinguished Chair of  Neuroeconomics, Emory University


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