A few days ago, Mai told me that photos of landscapes make her feel lonely. That really caught me by surprise. The usual response to photos such as the one above is one of awe. People usually feel a new appreciation for nature and/or that spot. And, sometimes, people express a desire to visit that place too in order to experience it themselves. But I never thought someone could look at a landscape and feel a sense of loneliness. (Unless, of course, the photographer meant to invoke loneliness by selecting a certain type of photo or white balance)
But as I looked through some landscapes I came to the realization that, if you have the right frame of mind, they do indeed tend to feel quite lonely. Here is a beautiful expanse of land and it is totally devoid of humanity. And I thought about it some more. And I came to the realization that the viewer brings himself to the experience. It’s the reason for the subjectivity of art.
When I see a beautiful vista, I tend to picture myself there. What would I see and what would I capture with my camera. And I am very comfortable being alone. Although I am a very social person, I am also very comfortable being alone. I often find myself retreating for meditation (in the loosest sense of the word), as I did when I went to Cincinnati, OH. I was there as part of my P&G internship, but everyone else just wanted to go out to a bar and drink. 1) I don’t enjoy bars/drinking and 2) If I wanted to, I could do that anywhere, why not take advantage of being in a new city? So I took my camera and walked around the city on my own. Something about the time of day or day of the week meant that the city was pretty empty and I was walking around it as if on a movie lot. But I was OK with this. When I walk around Hawaii taking photos I don’t mind being alone. It’s when I’m done with the exploration and the photos that I begin to feel lonely if my friends and family are not around.
This makes me think of a great psychology experiment. Perhaps Duffy, the only psychology Phd candidate I know, could do this. Show people art and record their response and see what this says about them. It’d be like a Rorschach test, but not as abstract. Get on it – I know you have grad students under you. Make your minions wonderful and talented students work!