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Wednesday, 04 December 2013


Try Anton Bruckner, especially the Adagios from the 7th and 9th Symphonies. You may find out being depressed isn't always a bad thing after all...

I would think that they have to.

I have no doubt this is true. A photograph can appear deep and interesting one time, an obvious cliché another time. The popularity of certain types of photographs, perfect pet photos with good bokeh, extra-vivid landscapes with a starburst sunset on the tip of a mountain or through a rock formation, they can feel downright oppressive depending on my mood, like being forced to listen to Kenny G too long.

You have explained why certain people find certain books/movies/songs to be deeply meaningful whereas I find certain books/movies/songs to be utter crap. You have given a better definition of "resonance" than I have seen before.

I wonder if photographers, too, depend in part for the meaning and richness of their photographs on their psychological state of being?

Do sad people make sad photographs?

You're right, Mike. Its long been established that one's mood affects how one reacts to stimuli, such as music, photos, etc. However, not everyone reacts the same way. For some depressed folk, "depressive" music such as "The Isle of the Dead" (Rachmaninoff) may be soothing, while others find it worsening their depressive mood. for some in a better mood its not at all depressive music. Similarly with visual images. In fact there is a phychiatric test called the Thematic Apperception Test, where you interpret and create a story about deliberately unspecific pictures, which are supposed to give clues to your moods, attitudes, and personality. So its no surprise that not everyone like the same music, art, photos, etc.

Impeccable timing, Mike. I just left the first in a series of therapy appointments we've setup for our 9-year old daughter who is dealing with anxiety associated with school (and how it makes her wish she didn't have to go). After the appointment, we walked through a small waiting room where she noticed an impressionistic painting of children playing on a playground. She stopped, gazed and commented that the painting comforted, calmed her, made her feel the way she feels at Christmas break - free from the anxiety of school. It's not hard evidence to support your theory, but it's at least an interesting anecdote.

Minor White and Alfred Steiglitz certainly would have agreed that much of the perceived meaning and depth depends upon the viewer's perceptions and psychological state. That seems to be among the basic postulates of that school of photography.

There is evidence of sad mood affecting certain emotion-related cognitive processes - see this study http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~mfarah/Emotion-SadMoodCognition.pdf

One question to ask is whether you seek reinforcing stimuli to match your mood, or whether you seek countering stimuli to negate it. I generally don't think it's a good idea to reinforce depressive thoughts, for obvious reasons. However I have no doubt the powerful emotions experienced in a depressive state can stimulate creative activity like photography.

If you are walking that line please take care, Mike.

If an antidote is needed you might enjoy http://thisisnthappiness.com (warning: sometimes NSFW).

Interesting. I've often wondered whether a viewer's mood triggers their response to art or if the art influences their mood. Or both.

Pondering this briefly was fun, so thanks for leading me there!

I'm completely with you on this. Mood strongly affects the way I perceive music and photographs; even the time of day makes a difference. There are albums that sometimes seem ponderous at best in the morning and invigorating at night. It's quite a thing.

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