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Friday, 18 January 2013


We are absolutely predisposed to see faces. Eyes in particular. I don't know if anyone's tried to measure what percentage of our brain is devoted to the task in any meaningful way, but it's huge. I think a good argument can be made that our brain is basically a face-reading device with some simple motor control, autonomic system, language and a really really primitive cognitive thing bolted onto it.

I did not see the face, but now I cannot see it any other way, as predicted! I confess I was trying to figure out what it had to do with the toilet paper roll, having been confused by the "see below" part.

I did not see a face on first look, but certainly did on second look. This pattern-seeking is called "paredolia". It is an ancient function of our brains, vital to survival, once upon an epoch.

Love "Red and yellow" and "Sunset", but this is generally the kind of thing I like. Well done, Mike!

"I gotta get out of the house more...."

Uta Barth might disagree.

I didn't see it as a face (at first), but seeing faces is probably the most common example of pareidolia. It is hard wired in our brains, which are pattern seeking organs. The brain will discern patterns, whether they are present or not.

I like "Sunset".

I'm so glad that you posted some of the results of your exercise! I especially like "Blood Spatter" and "Sunset." "Blood Spatter" is just my taste for minimalist/white-on-white images, with a thoughtful and precise composition. I give it bonus points for the tiny blood drops (I'm a sucker for bits of red in images and the drops suggest an interesting but unknown back story). I also like the way a bit of the paper has strayed above that center line, and the rhythmic repetition of shapes in those strips of remaining paper. Just lovely, IMO.

I find "Sunset" fascinating--such interesting layers of mirror/window/reflected light (and a nice repeating of shapes in this one, too). The rectangle of burnt orange reminds me of a film negative; I don’t think this would be half as interesting if it were a different color.

I hope you post more of these “exercises.” I admire anyone who moves beyond his normal bounds of comfort out of self-motivation rather than necessity; maybe you can motivate some of the rest of us to do the same. :-)

Nah, no face in that. Maybe responses to this photo are a good indicator of where we lie on the humanist to misanthrope scale?

I didn't see a face, and still don't when I look at it longer. Is the face supposed to be right side up? If it is, maybe I don't see it because the glasses are upside down.


Fit should be right in my previous post.

"The Dragoon" will be for sale in 5...4...3...2...

I like "Sunset". It has great form but the color wins. It's a keeper.
The face eluded me and still does. I wonder what a poll would reveal?

I like these photos, especially Blood spatter, but they depress me a little. I was recently diagnosed with agoraphobia (for me, it manifests itself as a fear of leaving my apartment).

I might have recognized it without prompting if the glasses were right-side up. Did the GX1's face recognition feature detect it as such?

My pre-elph Ixus point-and-shoot detects faces (eyes), even those of statuary like these smiling asparas in Angkor Wat.

But didn't recognize this iconic Bayon face which is hyper-heroic in scale.

Recent phone and tablet cameras (as well as freeware photo editors) have pushed this further: boxing people's faces for tagging purposes (the default setting) as if we know all the people we shoot in our pictures. Quite annoying (them boxes), really. I guess camera features pandering to social media, help to sell phones, tablets, and point-and-shoots.

With more practice—dare I say—my serious pics ought to be as good as your exercises.

I can see the face on examination, but it didn't occur to me until you suggested it. I'm not sure, but I noticed immediately that the glasses were upside down, and since the jar lid "mouth" is below them, that makes the relationship wrong for a face, and that may be what blocked it for me. Maybe. Or maybe it all happens at a much lower level and it just didn't for me.

No did not see a face. I did think I saw an interesting lens on first take. I tried to figure out what make it was. On second take it looks like a coffee cup.
I guess 90% of my brain is wired to guess the camera and lens. Or just fixated on lenses.

Blood Splatter. TMI.

The GX1 is a cute little thing, isn't it?

Red and Yellow :)
great shot.

I didn’t see the face initially. I think the orientation of the glasses threw me. PBS has an interesting example of how we react to an upside down face on their site. Just click the image to rotate it. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/brain/illusions/form.html

PBS also aired something last year that discussed Prosopagnosia (face blindness). I’d never heard of this and the fact that it may affect up to 2.5% of the population seems hard to believe. Long live Big Bird.

Some times it's easier to do it in video:



Good to see that you are exploring unchartered waters, I found the pictures refreshing in a way.

Sunset is totally awesome. All very Ernst Haas this. Good stuff.

Mike what is it about humanity that predisposes some of us to look at a random collection of photos such as these and see deep meaningfull things that the majority are blind to.
This more than anything is what turns off most people when confronted with the musings of some so called experts in the arts,photography,painting,sculpture etc.
These are just photos of mundane everyday subjects no more no less,get real people.

[Exactly the point of the exercise, Michael. Perhaps you missed the earlier post that set the context for the discussion. --Mike]

I'm one of those who failed to see a face, but when I looked at it second time I saw a teacher I had in university. His mouth was exactly like that.
On a more serious note, I just love the subtlety of the sunset picture.

You don't have to travel to Antartica to make interesting photographs; you just need to use your creativity. You are always the teacher, Mike, whether intentional or not.

Good work.

I don't really see the face, even after reading the text. I can tell myself that the glasses must be eyes, and the round object in the foreground (coffee jar lid? lens hood?) could be a mouth, but I don't see it. Despite often seeing faces in rock formations, trees, clouds etc.

I like the Sunset, though.


> see below*

So, I kept flicking back and forth between the "face" photo and the one immediately below it (Blood spatter), and I must confess, panicking a little because I 'didn't get it.'

[Fixed now, hopefully. --Mike]

No face. Like pictures.

I didn't see a face. but I did think "mike, you nood to clean your glasses"

I didn't see it as a face initially, but after reading the footnote, I can't *not* see the face.

Sorry, no face even when I try to see one.

Nope. I can't make your picture coalesce into a face, even after the hint. As someone else said, maybe if the glasses were right-side-up?
I think my face recognition software may be damaged.
On the other hand, my E-P2 sees faces in toasters and random piles of junk. To find trompe l'oeil face pictures, all I have to do is wave it around the room.

Just received as a present a copy of 'The Practice of Contemplative Photography' , by Karr and Wood (a previous Book of the Week recommendation). I'm enjoying the book and these quiet, contemplative photographs.

Sorry, to literal minded to see a face. Neat sunset shot though. My apartment is on the third floor facing due East so sometimes get the morning sun (living in Puget Sound, Washington, the sun is rare this time of year). The patterns cast by the blinds and tree branches just outside the windows have been subjects for my camera.

Thanks to this "exercise" I'm beginning to believe you are actually capable of producing captivating images, and in color, no less. But I'm not quite convinced. You will have to show more. Soon.

Very much like "Blood Spatter" and "Red and Yellow." I'm not sure what the latter is really a picture of but I like the textures.

P.S.: Hope the bleeding has stopped.

As for the eyeglasses being upside down, and whether this has affected facial-feature detection: the human visual brain has a peculiarity sometimes called the Thatcher Effect. Don't know if it's relevant, but... interesting.

"The great neurologist Oliver Sachs suffers from prosopagnosia, a.k.a. face blindness."

So does Chuck Close. Here are the two of them talking about it on Radiolab:


Amusing to read that you took a "grab shot" in your own study, but I understand perfectly. That's the thing about "getting out of the house" (or your neighborhood, your town, your county, etc.)--how much time had you spent in that room before you saw the phenomenon that led to "Sunset"? Or before you thought it would make a picture? There's always something to see, if we're talking about seeing artistically, especially if natural light is part of the equation.

Writing this reminds me of Giorgio Morandi and his bottles; Cezanne and his revisitings of a handful of subjects; or how much and how well Levitt, Eggleston, Meyer, Leiter saw on their walks or commutes.

But now you've given me something else to think about--another side of responsive seeing: I see plenty of things and take plenty of grab shots, but how often do I come back to a scene at the same time of day to do it properly (such as on a tripod)? Almost never. I stopped doing that when I realized that it's never exactly the same and I should get it as right as possible on the spot with whatever I have. That attitude is fine in and of itself, but ultimately isn't really an excuse for not trying again. After all, "not the same" can sometimes mean "better".

This exercise reminded me of a "series" I once did. When my whole company got to/had to telecommute for a week while switching offices, I realized after a couple days that I felt more stiff and more sore working at home because I never got up from my chair. For the next few days, whenever I saw the light hit something interestingly, I got up and took a picture.

But mostly: I didn't see the face at first, but I do now. I wonder whether people would see it faster if the glasses were right side up?

Still trying, still no face!

I have greatly enjoyed Oliver Sacks's work (specifically the man who mistook his wife for a hat and an anthropologist on mars). I had never known that he suffered from any condition that could have also featured in a case-study in either of these books. It almost seems a little ... ironic? Surprising, at least.

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