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Reading photographer Jay Kinghorn’s post about how audio affects perception of visual images reminded me of the “soundtracks” I used to create as I wrote short stories.  The music I collected helped me channel, get lost in, build and sustain emotions that I needed to create strong images on the page.  With the support of a tech savvy roommate, I even played around with Windows Media and tried to weave together my written words with still images and compiled music.  The goal?  Simply to tell a story and use accompanying music to create emotional resonance.  Currently I do little with short stories or movie making though music still influences my work … I sometimes listen to music as I walk along the Charles with my camera.  Perhaps this New England winter, I will jump back into the fiction.  Meanwhile, this late summer morning, I find myself pondering the fact that while audio certainly affects image perception, the flipside is also true.  Visuals influence our perception of audio.

Leaf by the Charles River

Yes, there is some connection to recent Sunday musings where I lamented that, in today’s politics, glossy images distract from listening to candidates’ words.  Nothing novel there – just look at the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon debate where television viewers apparently thought the inexperienced yet highly telegenic Kennedy won the debate while radio listeners thought the less telegenic, more experienced Nixon won.  Politics aside, consider pharmaceutical ads especially the ones that air during the evening news and other programs associated with older viewers.  The companies have to share the side effects associated with the drug being advertised.  Notice how the spoken words (e.g. … this drug may cause this that or the other thing and in rare cases lead to death …)  are paired with images of happy people of all ages meandering — sometimes slowly but always with a smile — along beaches, up mountains, through open-air markets, with a dog or two in tow.  Hope is evoked so powerfully, visually that it becomes easy to let words of risk go in one ear and out the other.  In the end, the images convey the message.  Words become irrelevant.

Fallen

Of course, this is nothing new.  Peoples’ visual and auditory responses and perceptions have been manipulated throughout human history, as a means to some end.  I guess that’s what I am struggling with right now.  When I watch a movie or movie trailer or attend a concert or an art exhibit or even a religious service, I am open to being manipulated.  I await the melding of music, words and images to make me experience a story.  But it’s when that manipulation happens in other contexts that I become wary and quite frankly on occasion angry.  Artistically, I am looking forward to exploring these ideas in both my photography and writing, and to better understand how other artists use these ideas and I don’t mean in a Wag the Dog kind of way.

 

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