Monday, August 06, 2007

Less Information, More Meaning

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About the picture

This picture was originally a digital color photograph I took at a nearby state park, which I later transformed into a blue-cast duotone image in Photoshop. The scene was natural beauty, punctuated by the odd way in which the tree in the foreground appears to bend at a right angle, wrapping itself about the skyline of the background.

Why I chose this - Technically

When converting to a duotone image, I actually subtracted information from the scene. Gone are the various colors of green, brown and intense yellow that dominated the image. Instead there are only gradations of this surreal blue. The original purpose of the conversion was to hide overexposure of the sunlight in the picture. By converting to grayscale, I could selectively reduce the intensity of the white-yellow light of the bright midday sun and compress the contrast range in the image. To my surprise, taking the step to lessen my exposure mistake actually revealed a better image.

Why I chose this - Philosophically

In an age of rapid, easily-accessible information, people have a tendency to believe that the more information we have presented before us, the more complexity we can appreciate. However, a photograph like this shows that by effectively removing information, we are given intellectual freedom to appreciate aspects of a scene that might have gone without notice. We are not drawn simply to the horizon, to gaze at a faraway mountain or landmark; we are steadfastly focused on the foreground, and the many strange ways in which the leaves can take form and the branches can twist. The paradox of beauty in nature is that it can be both irregular and yet common; here the geometry of trees is both instantaneously recognizable yet bizarrely asymmetric. Without the color reduction, such an appreciation of texture and shape might be more subtle, and thus easily overlooked.

This concept in my opinion extends beyond graphic art. One can selectively "filter" and reduce the amount of information in a given communication, and sometimes come away with a greater appreciation of the underlying message. The next time you receive an e-mail message from a supervisor, filter the message for the number of times the word "I" appears instead of "we"; or alternatively, consider whether the focus is on what he or she feels or what he or she observes. Through simple tabulation, discarding the actual verbs and distracting adjectives, you can learn about the motivation behind the message. Such creative filtrations, for example, might expose the underlying emotional basis that any effective reply should address, instead of the mundane detail that might first come to mind having read the note literally.

1 comment:

Mavis said...

Thanks for writing this.