pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: What lies at the edge of perception

24 August 2015

What lies at the edge of perception

Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles, California
14 August 2015

It looked like there had been a festival or a celebration. Colorful figures hung from the museum and further down the plaza, there were ranks of similar, smaller figures. There were inscriptions on some of the streamers that made up the lower third of each one. I wondered what they meant, what they were intended to represent. The heads looked like they were made from paper chrysanthemums. They waved and drifted in the breeze, bright.

I took photos from multiple angles with multiple exposures, using different filters. Later that night, I downloaded all my photos and perused them. The color photos looked bright and cheerful, childlike dolls, fluttering in the air. Two that were black and white made the figures look horrifyingly like hanging bodies.

How can something so simple as exposure and color completely change the complexion of a photograph?

I know that I've looked at photographs, and when I feel happy, I see happiness in the subjects' faces, too, almost a reflection of my own. And when I feel anxious or unhappy, I see censure in those same faces in that same photo. Rationally, it makes no sense that I can project my own pleasure or my own uncertainty on a static image.

I've spoken (often!) of the fact that I have no sense of my own presence in the world. And I've said (truthfully!) that I'm fairly sure that I only exist in my own head. When I discover other people can and do see me, the idea is novel (and periodically terrifying). But it never, at base, changes my own perception that I am invisible. And I'm not especially interesting, so I am always surprised that people actually read what I write here. I have no wish to be famous on the Internet, even if I have quietly claimed my own little corner, but I have come around to the idea that I don't only write for myself.

Colorful fluttering doll or a black and white nightmare?

Both, I suspect, especially since I know they reconcile themselves into the same image. It's all a matter of perception.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6 and a mystery Hipstamatic combination. "What lies at the edge of perception" as a phrase and a concept is borrowed from Eleanor Cameron's Court of the Stone Children, which was one of the most awesome books I read as a child.

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