The Visual World

A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.

Ansel Adams

We live in a visually rich world. For the vast majority of the population, the beginnings of most everyday experiences revolve around some form of visual information, data, or cue. This information usually provides our first impressions or understanding of the moment, and may be the very thing that establishes its permanency in our mind. Whether the visual is based on artistic, scientific, or informational purposes, it brings with it a wealth of information that our brains capture beyond the speed of thought itself.

 

A recent documentary on the Voyager 1 space probe underscores the powerful nature of visuals. Built in the 1970s with cutting edge technology, Voyager 1 has brought us images and data from our galaxy for more than 40 years. On August 25, 2012, it became the first spacecraft to cross the heliopause and enter the interstellar medium, and is expected to continue transmitting until 2025. Its images have shaped how we ‘see' and imagine our solar system, changing beliefs and upending assumptions that stood for hundreds of years. Now the 'kicker' to this story lies in the technical foundation of the subject: the computing power that brought us all that wealth of data is roughly equivalent to today's car key fob; a tiny fraction of the smartphone in our pockets! Just imagine what awesome power we carry with us every day - all within reach of our ever-expanding intellect and sense of wonderment.

 

But as the adage goes, with great power comes great responsibility. How are we using the technical capabilities we have at our fingertips today? How wisely do we engage this marriage of mind and machine? Are we content to capture the occasional 'selfie' with the 'trophy shot’ that is the digital equivalent of 'Kilroy was here' graffiti scrawled on a wall? Are we merely satisfied with the cacophony of virtual stock images that represent moments and not memories? Perhaps it is time to stop and think before we point our smartphone cameras or digital point-and-clicks, and ask a few simple yet fundamental questions: what is it that I am capturing? What is it that I am looking to 'say'? 

 

The Visual World will explore these questions - and more - that flow from their voyages of discovery.