the online magazine about life as a creative process


What photography is to me:
Some of my associations


by Jasenn Zaejian, Ph.D.




The human visual processing system is, unfortunately, unlike a photograph or a film image. What we see with our eyes is mostly distorted by the time it reaches the processing system and appears in consciousness. The distortion is created by character armor in the brain and in the musculature surrounding and connected with the ocular system. Unlike a photo or film image, we interpret everything we take in through our ocular system.

Our egocentric consciousness is such that all our apperceptions are believed, by us, to actually be a direct representation of reality. All our apperceptions are not reality, at all. They are just that, apperceptions. Jung defines apperception (in the Undiscovered Self) as:
A psychic process by which a new conscious content is articulated with similar, already existing contents in such a way that it is understood. In active apperception, the ego grabs hold of something new and comes to grips with it. In passive apperception, the new content forces itself upon consciousness, either from outside (through the senses) or from within (the unconscious).

Thus the image we "see" is, unlike a photographic image, in essence, a distortion of what-is. It is not what we think it is. Like these pelicans. Upon viewing the picture one might have all sorts of hypotheses and judgments: It's a lousy photograph! It's a great photograph! It's a mediocre photograph! How could the photographer get so close, especially since the pelicans appear to be at an altitude and not near the water? Was it shot at sun down or sun up, given the colors? As an exercise, permit your mind to stop reading here, take a few moments and actually contemplate on the images. Imagine the position of the photographer, the time of day, etc., until you arrive at a belief as to how the shot was made. You might even write down your conclusions and judgments. Then read on, below.

Actually it was shot with a relatively short 200mm lens at 1:43 PM, from the 19th floor of our hotel balcony in Miami, last December. I noticed we were just about the level of their flight path, and waited for about an hour, on the balcony, for some of these great birds (one of my favorites) to reward me by providing an opportunity to get a good shot. And the photo was edited in Photoshop.

Apperceptions, as in this instance with our pelicans, are relatively benign. Someone who knows about photography can probably figure out how this photo was composed. Someone who knows relatively little might be puzzled.

Apperceptions relative to humans in intimate relationships, so very frequently create toxic, destructive, and hurtful reactions in our partners. What we "see" isn't reality, regardless of how convinced we are that it is, including the consensus of agreement from other armored neurotic characters who would agree with our understanding that what we have 'seen' is reality. What we believe our partners are "causing" in the relationship, is frequently our own unconscious projections of our own toxicity that we are wont to acknowledge and take responsibility for in ourselves.

Hard science, e.g., physics, has, since the last century, been providing evidence that what we see is only a manifestation of what-is, distorted by our interpsychic processes and belief systems. Yet we continue to believe in the validity of our own apperceptions and thoughts.

These beliefs, filtered through the armored neurotic character structure are the primary source of conflict among intimate partners, corporations and nations.




Jasenn Zaejian, Ph.D., is a psychologist who lives and works in the New York area. He's the author of Giving Up 'Mental Illness' or How to Be "Normal" in a Crazy World. See website.