Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do We Only Photograph What We Recognize?

I took this picture six years ago in a place, believe it or not, called, Devils Garden, a magical area in Escalante National Monument, UT.

I took the picture because the subject reminded me of powerful image that I had seen hundreds of time while growing up. I recognized it immediately. (I wonder if I would have seen the picture if the place had not been called Devils Garden - putting the word "devil" in my mind.)

This photo got me thinking: Do we only (or mostly) photograph what we recognize - or what is familiar.

What do you think? And what would you say about this photograph? Here's what a few of my friends had to say about the image.

Dr. Richard Zakia
I connected with the image the instant I saw it. For me it is a contemporary image of the crucification of Jesus on a "tree". He hangs there in pain and sorrow, arms outstretched. The black is a reminder of his death on the cross for the sins of mankind and the bright white sun in the sky represents the resurrection. Outstanding. Powerful.

(Rick here: Check out Dr. Zakia's book, Perception and Imaging. Gets you thinking.)

Steve Inglima
It's a photographic Rorschach test....

We are hard wired to look for recognizable shapes and forms so that we can identify things that matter to us, such as either threats or treats.

So, when we can, we organize anonomous shapes into something that might make sense to us, and we might trim the extraneous information that doesn't quite fit in favor of a more plausable identity.

In the case of the tree's sillouette, to me it has an anthropamorphic prescence of outstrecthed arms on a body, with a foerboding sense...perhaps someone preaching.

A combination of a tree and preacher is a...treacher?

Mike Wong
I see the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.

Mary Lou Johnson
No doubt it is Christ on the Cross. Beautiful coloring and stark silhouette! It also looks like it is taken from behind him which is a whole different and new perspective. It looks like Christ is looking into the light in these last moments. Very very interesting angle! I like it more and more as I look at it longer. Great job, Rick!

(Rick here: I did the see the "looking into the light" angle. Interesting.)

Bob Sammon
Treebeard pays homage to the sun before the attack on Isengard.

Carolyn Fox
To me, I guess partially due to the size of the main subject in relation to the background, this photograph represents some type of "celestial being" welcoming creatures, & the whole world, into its' protective arms.

Susan Black Aurigemma
Jesus on the cross.

Anna Cary
I see a tree spreading it's "wings", with a little squirrel perched on one of the wings, applauding the break of day. Also, a bird about to take flight from the upper left branch. Altogether, a very upbeat feeling!

Joe Brady
Well, the most obvious to me is a crucifixion story - hands reaching out to the heavens and the bright light above - either seeking relief or welcoming the coming light.

For a science fiction fan, it could be an alien worshipping their sun, or embracing and/or welcoming the arrival of a visiting or returning ship entering the atmosphere in preparation for a landing.

I'm curious to hear what others see!


Ken Zuk said...

Nice shot, thanks for putting this one up on your blog!

I would agree with your other readers who see this as Christ on the Cross...and for me, I see this as a beautiful representation with the color contrast (black=sin, light=forgiveness) that we are presented with in the stark silhouette! The angle also seems to me (as someone else mentioned) as taken from behind...a very interesting perspective.

jen said...

haha! I love Bob's comment "Treebeard pays homage to the sun before the attack on Isengard." so true.

John Tucker said...

I, too, see the Lord Jesus Christ on a cross, and all the elements having a meaning for personal salvation from sin and condemnation and the gift of eternal life.

Love the shot!

Pat Walsh said...

I would say that you most definitely shoot that which you are familiar with. If the subject was completely unfamiliar to you it most likely would not have stood out except as a big tree. It's when we start making connections between things that the photographer side comes out and wants to capture the amazing image of ______ . Christ, treebeard etc...

Rick Sammon said...

This came from Facebook. I did not see this either!

Rhonda made a comment about your photo in the album "Wall Photos":

"the Crucifixion was the first thing I saw, but now I see Rick skydiving thanks to Rob."

Luis said...

Hi Rick,

It is a very imposing photograph. I do believe that it is part of human nature to anthorpomorphize things and find patterns familiar to us in objects. As visual artists this is one of our tools to draw the observers to certain images. I really liked the angle you to took the photograph from since it makes a more dramatic effect.

As for what I see in the picture. Many things come to mind. Like, Christ The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Also Herbert Von Karajan ready to conduct the Austrian Symphony Orchestra. The loving arms of a father ready to embrace his children.

But, what I most like about this type of images is that it is subject to anyone's interpretation and unless you put a name on the piece, people's minds wonder into the recesses of their memories to find meaning to the image.

Thank you for posting it on your blog,

Luis Noriega

Rick Sammon said...

Another comment from my friend Dr. Dick Zakia.

My friend Dr. Stroebel saw it as just an old tree. My next door neighbor saw
it as being scary, a darkness of a man. Amazing! I think you have a
Rorschach photo. I have always know a photograph can have multiple
meanings depending upon the viewer but this really hit home for me.

Anonymous said...

It looked like a scarecrow to me too but I didn't think of Wizard of Oz. Cool shot!

Sharon Day

Iain said...

It's a tree hugger!!