John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

- Immersion -


We humans have this powerful ability to step away from reality in order to immerse ourselves into imaginary realms – whether it’s a book, a movie, or some virtual world in cyberspace. Immersion turns that realm into an alternative reality for us to experience and explore. Photographic psychology is the study of how we immerse ourselves into images.

In this photograph, I see the girl delving deep into the story offered by her book. She seems totally unaware of the environment around her, even though the many lines create an energetically busy scene. Her large sunglasses similarly suggest that she is blocking out the world. This is one of the key features of immersive experiences: the scene around us disappears from our awareness.

The layers of lines in this photo also seem to push her into and through the book. Like a net, they capture her mind within the immersive story she reads, as does the frame for the picture, which is square, stable and secure. I see the lines as external manifestations of the patterns and energy within the book. The forces of the story also flow through the diagonal and triangular lines created by her arms and legs. The black-and-white processing of the image focuses the eye on the shapes of these lines by eliminating colors that might otherwise catch the viewer’s attention.

Many of the quotes below from people who viewed this image reveal the psychological effects of the immersive experience. We might also consider this interesting question: what is the girl reading? What kind of immersive experience captures her? This is the mystery behind the image. It would tell us something important about the kind of person she is. So too your personality is revealed by the particular types of immersive experiences that capture your imagination.

“Relaxation came to mind. The girl seemed totally content without a worry in the world. I imagine that the girl’s life is not that simple or relaxed. I related this to my life with a million confused thoughts and stresses.”

“I think of the image as freeing herself, for a moment in time, from all her troubles.”

“The girl reminds me of myself. I wish I could just stop life for a moment and simply BE. Don’t think – just be in the moment, here and now.”

“The photo gave me a message to relax and not let the hardships of life take over me.”

“I saw this image as a kind of double-entendre: reading between the lines.”

“It just feels alone.”


If you liked this article in Photographic Psychology, you might also enjoy these:

bullet Mindfulness in photography
bullet Viewpoint
bullet Interpreting people pictures

Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche