They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, they would be right. An image can capture the essence of something powerful more than any writer or poet. An image is simple; it’s right there in front of you, completely unfiltered. Words can get lost in translation and taken out of context; their meaning confused and misinterpreted. Images aren’t just a mixture of colors caught on paper. They are something that can stir and evoke raw emotions inside of us.
There are standard examples of the importance of images. According to the Pew Research Center, an Internet user is 7.4 times more likely to click on content if an image is attached to it. Branding and marketing experts carefully utilize color schemes and images to persuade us to buy certain products. But why are we drawn to these visuals? How do they hold so much power over us?
Psychologists explain that images help to easily convey four key stimulants: expectations, emotion, motivation and culture. All four obviously hold a significant importance in daily human life and tap into the innate id. Images and visuals also elicit projections from the perceiver. If you put a picture of a boy and his dog in front of you, me and ten other people, that picture will probably mean something different for everyone who sees it. Maybe one person in the group recently lost their dog, maybe someone else had a bad childhood experience with a dog. Whatever the case may be, each person’s reaction to the picture will be somewhat based on their previous experiences and opinions. Their subjectivity will take hold and help to dictate the emotions they feel when presented with that picture.
In that sense, images aren’t just a solitary snapshot of a single moment. They are far reaching reminders of memories both good and bad. They are catalysts for emotional reactions.
They are powerful connections to something larger than yourself and they are visual representations of your inner most desires and fears.
Explaining that reasoning makes sense on an intellectual level. You understand that A causes B. But ultimately, there is a reason they say seeing is believing. No collection of words, or sequence of sentences can match the impact of a powerful image. Seeing something, whether it be a horrific image of war or an inspiring example of humanity, instantly makes it real. It makes everything relatable on a personable level.
I’m a writer; I love words. But even I can admit that in this digital age, a picture of a loved one means more to me than a text message. Images can more succinctly represent this world than complicated prose.
Look at these photos and all they represent. The conflicting ideologies of power and love seen in heavily armed police forces facing down peaceful protestors. True happiness found in an elderly couple making silly faces and kissing when the camera snaps. The hope for a better world when you come across a picture of 100,000 monks gathered together to pray. A reminder that anything is possible as you look at The Beatles play for a mostly empty club hall a year before they became The Beatles. All of these images don’t need an explanation because the content of the photographs speak for themselves.
“I never read. I just look at pictures,” Andy Warhol once said.
And why not? Pictures are wonderfully complex in their simplicity; one single image can tell an entire story.
To paraphrase Gandhi, you have two eyes and only one mouth for a reason.