Re: Reading pictures??

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sat, 5 Oct 1996 07:03:23 +0900

>Bob Long
>PS: The book has to do with the enormous complexity of the human
>imaging and pattern-recognition system and the fact that so-called
>Renaissance perspective is not the only convention by which the
>space-time continuum in which we live can be imaged in two-dimensional
>pictures. The further I go with this, the more deeply convinced I
>become that we have no inherent picture-reading mechanism--that we
>must learn to read pictures just as we must learn to read text. Text
>is a much more highly "encoded" information transmission form, of
>course, but the difference is largely one of degree. Thus, when Mama
>takes the kid on her lap and points to the pictures in the book of
>John and Mary and Rover and the ball--and thinks she's teaching the
>kid the words and, hopefully, instilling a love of books and
>reading--what she's primarily accomplishing is teaching the kid to
>read the pictures. "See that round shape? It has the same name as
>that spherical shape over there on the floor! We call both 'ball'
>because the round shape is a representation of the spherical one. Get
>it?" That's the real message the child receives.
>If anyone would like to discuss this proposition, I'm game. On the
>other hand, if the subject strikes anyone as off-topic, I'd like to
>know about that, too.

Dear Bob,

Probably coals to Newcastle, but don't forget the granddaddy of this discussion

E.H. Gombrich, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial
Representation, The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1956. Bollingen
Series/Princeton. (My copy is the 9th printing, 1989).

There is also some interesting material in

David Freedberg, 1989, _The Power of Images: Studies in the History and
Theory of Response_ U.of Chicago Press.

I've got a couple of other things which are somewhere in my library but
have been mislaid. Key point is (for the folks on anthro-L) the
relationship between form and perception has been a big deal in Art History
for a very long time, at least since the 19th century, when photography
challenged the art world to think about mimesis and what else might be done
with art. There's a lovely anecdote about Picasso (I'll have to search for
it; probably in a book on the history of photography), which relates how
someone showed the master a photograph of his wife and said, "It looks just
like her." To which Picasso replied,"She's two inches tall and her skin is
grey?" (Details are probably off, but the force of the tale is obvious.)

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo