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I had a dream (albeit a rather short and insignificant one)

Last night I dreamed that champignons are dangerous. That’s right, newsflash.

Now, before you inflict your kindness by sending me interpretations of my dream please realise that I’ve heard of Freud and Jung, and that I have no particular need to be analysed.

What I found most interesting about my dream was the quality of images and story I was experiencing. It was all fully believable. It was realistic to an extend that it took a second or two after waking up to realise that the mushroom was an illusion, and that my mind got tricked.

This reminded me of the mysterious ways in which our brain functions, and how we often see what we want to see or don’t see what we don’t want to see.

Those of you who have studied photography, or other forms of art and design, will be aware that it is our brain that sees, not the eye. The eye is a highly developed arrangement of lens and sensor that allows for signals to be send to the brain. There the information is interpreted and assembled in a rather complex process involving a range of areas within our brain.

The result is a stream of images that is a fairly good interpretation of our actual surroundings. But it is not perfect, and the brain is working hard to keep our world relatively steady and balanced. In the process some information – colour for example – may be radically misinterpreted to ensure that we do not suffer from visual overstimulation.

I have no idea how the processes of dreaming and seeing are connected, but I do know that our interpretation of what we see is often not consistent with what is in front of us. Sometimes the brain seems to make things up even when we are awake. So it comes as no surprise that it also does so when we sleep.

I often do eye/mind exercises when working with 1st year photography students. The tricks are intended to show students how fallible our senses can be, and how this knowledge can be of importance when designing with colour, tone and perspective.

Here’s a little gem for you that fools just about every photography student. It often takes them a little time to accept that they’ve just been fooled by their brain. If you have Photoshop or know how to find your computer OS colour meter, you will find that squares A and B are identical in tone. But most people – no matter how hard they look – won’t see it that way.

Checkerboard and shadow illusion by ©Edward H. Adelson/1995
Checkerboard and shadow illusion by ©Edward H. Adelson/1995

 

 

This rugby world cup got me thinking…National Failure Day

For most people who have given their best, to hear that one has failed is not comfortable. But failure is a necessary part of eventual success, and to positively deal with it is a required skill in becoming successful.

A former boss once told me that I couldn’t write if I tried.

In her eyes I had failed. She was having a bad day and I never found out if she really meant it or if I was her lightning rod. But in many ways she made me think. What if I couldn’t write? I’m a photographer not a writer. Would it really matter? Would the world stop spinning just because of my incessant tries and perceived failures at lining up the right words in the right order?

Of course not, the worst that could happen is that nobody would care to read my writings. And would that matter? Not in the final analysis. What does matter however is that I get a sense of pleasure from writing and that it often brightens my day. For me, it doesn’t have to be good, it has to be fun! And it has to keep my sister amused. What really really matters is that I still try and that I’m allowed to find my limits. And to find those limits I’ll eventually have to fail.

The recent rugby world cup final highlighted that failure and success are often very close. Success rarely comes without the risk of failure. Watch a baby learn to walk.

What would have happened had the All Blacks lost the final? How different would be the perception of their efforts had the French converted just one try? It was thrilling and it was close. What was clear is that each one of these All Blacks accepted the risk of failure for a chance at success.

Risk taking and risk management should be savored as much as a successful outcome. The latter will eventually follow the former.

We need to try things out, and be prepared to fail. How else would we ever discover if we could be good, or even great, at anything? We all could have been world beaters if only we had………….you get my drift…………..

To that end I propose a national failure day. A holiday where everybody goes out of their way to try something new. A day on which we push ourselves and try our very best to fail, to find our current limits. And with it to maybe find a new inspiration and hidden talent.

We need to fail, it’s the flip side of success.

At the end of it all, as kiwis like to say…she’ll be right, mate.