Saturday, December 15, 2012

Trance Only

Here's a little tableau that I pass fairly regularly. It has gradually changed as the objects weather. What you're seeing, aside from the obvious, is a metal sign wrapped around a cylindrical gate post. A paper combining printed and hand written material has been glued to the sign and partially removed.

The reason I decided to pause and record the scene today was that I'd been thinking (again) about pareidolia, our tendency to see patterns in what may be random. We create our own meaning in these patterns, even imagining human faces in cratered surfaces, weathered paint, and so forth.

Now there clearly is a face in the poster-on-sign in my photo. Something I find fascinating about some styles of poster art is that with skill, a few simple lines of solid black on a plain background can immediately convey the feeling of a three dimensional person, complete with expression. My suspicion is that part of the reason this can be done so successfully is precisely because we are "wired" to want to see faces, and further to want to read their mood as well as we can. This is a skill that has evolved to a high level in humans!

To return to my little photo abstraction, I had the notion that the person was fixated on a goal, but also that her (?) stare was somewhat trancelike. From there, it was impossible for me not to read the "ENTRANCE ONLY" sign as "TRANCE ONLY". It was a simple matter of composing with my little Canon G10 so that only the desired portion of the word was in the frame. I chose my angle to center a tall tree within the slit of background on the right, because I'm always looking for patterns to connect my foreground, midground and background. Tree>path of leaves>similarly shaped letters on the sign. Note, too, the LY>LY connecting the sign and poster. Okay, those are surely examples of my own tendency to look for and find patterns and meaning! If this photograph has any worthwhile symbolism, I'll have to take at least partial credit for it, because I don't think it was intended by the worker who mounted the sign, nor even by the "vandal" (or graffiti artist) who added the pasted paper.

One other detail. See how the A has been punctured and fractured? Do you see anything interesting or significant in the shadows cast by the fragments? If so, that's your own pareidolia! Please use the comments section below to let us know what you see.



  1. Here is a fine explication of the occurrence of pareidolia, courtesy of Hume: "There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all beings like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious. We find human faces in the moon, armies in the clouds; and by a natural propensity, if not corrected by experience and reflection, ascribe malice or good- will to every thing, that hurts or pleases us." - David Hume

  2. I see a little dog looking out of the space!


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