Photography + Perception = PhD

Flat & Framed has lived through its first year. Even though there hasn’t been any output in the form of blog posts during these last months, the thought processes that started with this blog have been ever evolving.

I did not stop thinking about photography. On the contrary, I am glad to say that thinking about photography is now officially part of my professional life.

I also did not stop photographing, even though it has been more in the form of snapshots or little experiments (in photographing or editing) rather than work on series/projects. I will add some photographs in this post. This is just for your visual pleasure, not for any deliberate connection to the text.

© Nathalie Vissers

Back to my new profession. Interestingly, this blog did play its role in getting me there. You might recall one of my first blog posts on how experimental psychology could be interesting for artists. The lecture inspiring that post opened my eyes to the existence of a research field within psychology that focuses on how we look at, and aesthetically appreciate, visual art (experimental psycho-aesthetics, see also my reflection on the Visual Science of Art Conference 2017). It also got me reacquainted with the great mystery that visual perception in itself still poses to vision science researchers (of which psychologists are an important part).

Before, I was interested in making photographs myself and thinking about how I wanted to show things in my photographs. Now, I also got intrigued with the next phase: what is happening on the viewer’s side? Why are we looking at photographs? What factors influence the effect of a photograph or an artwork? Why do we find some photographs beautiful and others ugly, some interesting and others boring? How are we ‘reading’ a photograph and what thought processes and emotional responses lead us to these evaluations? What photographs do we remember and why?

© Nathalie Vissers

One thing led to another and I am happy to announce that, since October 2017, I have started a PhD project on photography and aesthetics within the lab of Experimental Psychology (yes, the same research group that was discussed in that early blog post).

So far, I have been learning a lot, and many ideas are simmering in my head. Not all of them so concrete that I can share them in a comprehensible way yet, but I promise I will do so in the future. One of my explicit aims for these next years is to share the things I learn through this PhD project with you – and anyone who is interested, through presentations, seminars, workshops and writings. And of course, to receive your valuable feedback in return.

Therefore, it is possible that Flat & Framed will grow into another platform, a platform where I can communicate my scientific journey, results from studies, findings from vision science that could be interesting for photographers and other inspirations.

© Nathalie Vissers

Besides the scientific view on photography, I do plan to keep my artistic projects going as well. Here, the challenge is to find some balance, in managing a full-time PhD project as well as keep that other view on photography alive, the personal, playful, intuitive one. The one where I am behind the camera, not thinking photography, but just living it.

As always, I am happy to hear from you as well. What processes go on in your head while you are looking at a photograph? Do you think scientific approaches can teach us something essential about art or photography? How do you balance a (full-time) job with your artistic projects?

© Nathalie Vissers (How cool is this fish?)

Note: For now, I have given up on the comment section, as I got 649 spam comments in my mailbox during these last months. You can however, contact me through email.