Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hearing a Painting or Photograph?

What does it mean when a painting or photograph speaks to us? It is a common expression engaged in the English language that indicates when something impacts us in a deep and meaningful way. When a person tells me that a photographic creation of mine has spoken to them, I take it as a great compliment! The expression itself suggests that one’s experience of a visual work of art was so overwhelming that it seems to have engaged all their senses, and not merely the sense of sight.

What does it mean then to hear a photograph, or a painting? I think it means that one’s perception of it is so profound, it deepens the ways we interact with it, moving us beyond the visual and into subtle auditory, and emotional levels. When we see a dramatic image of a waterfall, it might trigger sonorous memories of what a waterfall sounds like. Suddenly, we are not only seeing the waterfall we are hearing it as well. Or a pastoral scene of flowers and trees rouses the melodies of bird calls in our mind, the reflected trees in the ripples of a lake cause us to hear their leaves rustling in the wind. This happens to me quite often!

Visual stimulation is so potent, it can instantly act as a key to a variety of sensations within us. It is interesting to note, however, that the expression which describes a meaningful connection with a visual work of art includes, (of all senses) the sense of sound! When a photograph or painting speaks to us, it is understood that it has really moved us and touched our hearts. I think this might speak to the fact (no pun intended), that sounds greatly intensify our experience of art. As when we watch a film with the mute button on, it tends not to have as great an impact on us. Sounds certainly add a whole other dimension! When the sounds are not externally provided, the audience will often add them, in a most spontaneous, nearly unconscious manner, and suddenly, a photograph is being heard, in addition to being seen!

So what does art say to us? What does a painting, or photograph sound like? There are, of course, as many responses to these questions as there are humans on this planet! When the sounds are internally generated, they are as varied as our DNA stands! I most enjoy when others give me feedback, and translate for me the specific ways in which my photographs speak to them. Perhaps nothing could be more enjoyable to an artist than to hear about how their work has moved the hearts of others. I aim to move hearts with my art, and create photographs that not only speak, but sing!

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