Is it all about perception?

July 30, 2008

What went wrong when you show images and the people who look at them totally misinterpret them? This happens to me all the time since I am taking the majority of my photographs in Asia but then show them in Europe. Most of the time I am dealing with misperceptions about political statements that the images are supposed to make, or with stereotypes about Asia which lead the viewer in the wrong direction.

So is this the fault of the viewer, or is it up to the photographer to set it right?

First of all: I am trying to portrait people the way they are and not the way they want to appear or how the viewer wants them to appear in order to suit a certain stereotype. I am interested in real characters, not in fashion or fiction. Most of my images are pretty straight forward. So why is it that there is still so much room for misconceptions about what a picture wants to tell?
I do not think there is a final solution to this problem. People will always see what they want to see or what they are able to understand. They will fill the gaps with their own conception about the world. However, I strongly believe that the photographer has to take the viewer into consideration when he/she makes a decision about how to present the image. After all an image is a medium, a way to communicate my perception about a place, a person, a feeling. As a photographer I want people to see what I have seen and felt.

Viewing is about perception and understanding. If I have a message, I have to make sure that it’s understood. Maybe not by everyone, but at least by some people. Otherwise the image is a failure…

Stefan

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