John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

- The Collective Unconscious -

According to Carl Jung, all humans, regardless of culture or historical period, share the same patterns of thinking and feeling that have formed over the course of human evolution and now reside deep inside the mind. He considered this "collective unconscious" to be a type of genetic memory, an inner source of wisdom and illumination - the God within. He found evidence of this universal mind in the tales of classic mythology and he believed that the collective unconscious, although hidden within the psyche, speaks to us in our dreams.

I took this shot at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Lagging behind my friends as we left the museum, I leaned over the railing to capture this image as they and several other people descended the stairs ahead of me. Because the light was low, I was forced to use a slow shutter speed and high ISO. I decided that I might be able to apply the resulting grain and soft focus in composing a dreamy, almost surrealistic quality to the image, as if we are getting a glimpse into a distant memory. The painterly appearance, enhanced by small doses of the Photoshop dry brush and film grain filters, seemed consistent with the idea of mythology.

It's interesting to note that Jung's idea of the collective unconscious was inspired by a dream. He saw himself inside a house filled with paintings and containing a long staircase that descended deep into a cave below, where there were bones and artifacts from an ancient civilization. Rather than portraying a cave, I decided to represent the source of the collective unconscious as a diffuse white light created with a Photoshop lighting effects filter. The group of people descending the stairs together, towards that light, suggests that they are sharing this foray into this origin of the human mind.


Would you like to read or participate in a discussion about this image in flickr?

Here are some other articles in Photographic Psychology that are related to this photo and essay:

The Big Picture of Composition
Image Shaping ("post-processing")
Symbolism: What does it mean?


jung collective unconscious

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious - Carl Jung (Collective Works)

"Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker and the founder of analytical psychology (also known as Jungian psychology). Jung's radical approach to psychology has been influential in the field of depth psychology and in counter-cultural movements across the globe. Jung is considered as the first modern psychologist to state that the human psyche is "by nature religious" and to explore it in depth." (available on Amazon)

Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche