Mental search image – doors and blackberries

You see what you’re looking for. Do you know that? From the very first day of the workshop in Methana, images of the town’s beautiful doors emerged. I was fascinated by the craftsmanship, the intense colors and the simple and varying shapes. The more doors were shown during the evening picture viewing, the more doors I saw. On the trip to the next island, I realized that photographing ‘doors’ was becoming a bit obsessive. I enthusiastically saw repeating materials, new colors and sequences. You can pursue this and immerse yourself deeply in looking, but I realized that I was limiting myself. It was no longer “fresh” but I was magnetizing impressions that fitted into my pre-expectations. The shot suddenly had to be exactly vertical, one door similar to the next. I was no longer honestly photographing what I saw, but had a series in my head and conceptual photography joined in. I took a break from photographing doors, not without brushing my hand along the historic, tactile ornamental glass. The series is not in the album below. This austerity had taken me away from openly observing the place, as if I was missing the real thing while trying to document something. There was more to experience: sitting in the tavern and playing tavli (backgammon), watching the fisherman and the attentively waiting cat next to him, the speed of the small boats, the colors and waves.

In his book ‘The Art of Noticing’, Rob Walker[1] describes this phenomenon, this special attention to something, as the formation of ‘mental search images’. In terms of evolutionary history, this makes sense: the more I look out for ripe blackberries, the easier I find them and the greater the yield of jam 😉

Psychologist Alexandra Horowitz[2] writes “Everyone needs a mechanism to choose what to look for and what to look at, and what to ignore, from all the things in the world.” A mental image is “the visual form of expectation that allows you to find meaning in chaos.”

What is your mental search image and how do you recognize whether it opens up or limits you?

Click on the first image to see the pictures big

[1] Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing, New York 2019

[2] Alexandra Horowitz, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation,

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