A rainbow formed in the evening sky, murmuration of birds, a waterfall, a starry night – all these are beautiful visuals that every one of us enjoy. There are the visuals that Nature present to us in the most mesmerizing manner. The visuals that we humans create are nowhere near a match to the stunning visuals of Nature. We connect these scenes with our emotions and feelings and thus enjoy them to the core. We narrate our interpretations with these images and forms.
From Nature’s visual craft, let us now turn our attention to the visuals that we humans create– like a billboard on the street, a luxury car, an art exhibition, retail website, etc. Do these visuals have any purpose beyond its immediate functionality? Are we able to understand the purpose and meaning of the visuals we see in our daily life?
We live in a society with innumerable stylish and unique visuals. Statisticians opine that on a typical day, an average person is exposed to a minimum of 5,000 images in the form of photos, advertisements, videos, signages, products and packages, etc. Now, imagine a day where you are not switching your TV or smartphone on, where you are seeing products without package design, streets without any sign boards, shopping mall without brand logos, and so on. Would you be comfortable to live in a world like that? Never! In fact, before we started writing, humans created images to communicate. Lascaux cave paintings are the best example of this. It is famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings, found in a complex of caves in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, because of their exceptional quality, size, sophistication and antiquity. These paintings are estimated to be around 20,000 years old. We still do not know why they are depicted in caves; assumptions and interpretations regarding their purpose are aplenty.
Image making is an inevitable process of any civilization from prehistory to present time. From the cave to the shopping mall, we always fill the empty walls with images.
“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak“. John Berger, an English art critic, starts his book “Ways of Seeing” with these lines. Berger points out what is involved in seeing, and how the way we see things is determined by what we know. He goes on to argue that the real meaning of many images has been obscured by academics, changed by photographic reproduction, and distorted by monetary value. For example, the copies of Mona Lisa portraits we see as popup advertisements or magazine ads are entirely different from the real Mona Lisa painting displayed in Louvre Museum, Paris.
Images make us comfortable. For instance, while buying any product, first you identify the products with their visual aspects like logo, packaging, etc. Moreover you are familiar that images on your TV ads, billboards, social media etc. Market enchants its customers by using highly appealing images and designs. Even religions and political parties resort to the same method of using visuals to propagate their ideologies and values. Thus, images are indispensable in our modern day world.