Insights or musings into the art of taking pictures, and what pictures can tell us about people and events that words often fail to.
One of the important ways in which 21Pictures differs from other dating sites is that you get to suss people out by looking at pictures of their lives, rather than by analysing written self-descriptions or lists of attributes. The aim is to encourage people to make intuitive judgements about who they might want to date, similar to how we do it in the "real" world.
Sometimes, though, intuitive judgements can lead us astray. Everyone sees the world through the lens of their own experiences and beliefs, and it’s easy to think that we've "got" someone based on a few scraps of information, such as how they look. We're great at fitting people into boxes. Often we get it right. But not always.
Photo London, which opens at Somerset House next week, is a kind of Glastonbury for photography, in attitude if not in scale. As well as a showcase for hundreds of photographers, it features talks and events looking at the deep impact the medium has had on our lives. One of those speaking is Annebella Pollen, an academic and expert on mass amateur photography (the kind any of us with a smart phone partakes in). She talked to us earlier this week about the stories that pictures tell, and why it’s so important when looking at people's photos to think about “the eye behind the viewfinder”.
On Facebook, the lives of others can seem so much more appealing than our own. Usually this is because people tend to post only the appealing bits – which is why you don’t often see pictures of them first thing in the morning.
But the “Facebook effect”, as it’s become known, is very real. Looking at what other people do – or just looking at their faces – has a profound influence on how we view or rate ourselves.
If you want to know what someone is like and don’t have much to go on, check out what they’re wearing on their feet. Shoes say a lot about someone’s character, according to psychologists at the University of Kansas, who found that volunteers were remarkably accurate at predicting a person’s personality traits from photographs of their footwear.
Here’s what to look for. People who wear pointy, high-top or visibly uncomfortable shoes tend to be less agreeable. Pointy shoes and high heels may also be signs of emotional instability. Those with attractive shoes in good repair are more likely to be conscientious. Very dull shoes suggest attachment anxiety. Colourful or bright shoes are the hallmark of an extrovert, and also someone who is open to experience.
A profile made from pictures is like a mood board of your life. But what kind of pictures should you use? Guest blogger Daniela Bowker of Photocritic gives some professional advice
All good pictures tell stories. It's what they're meant to do. Sometimes the story is obvious, like a flashing neon sign; sometimes it's more subtle. It's the difference between a photo of you splashing in the puddles with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, and one of the Eiffel Tower reflected in the damp pavement. Both of them tell the story of Paris in the rain. One's a scream, the other's a whisper.
Bad photos don't tell good stories. They leave you in squinty-eyed wonderment. At Photocritic, a website dedicated to photography which I edit, we see a lot of disappointing photos. Crowd scenes or uninspiring snapshots of tourist attractions are some of the worst offenders. The tell-tale sign of a photo without a story is when you don't know where to look; your eye wanders about the picture and you think, "What am I meant to be looking at here?"
Pictures carry a lot of subtle information that is hard to express in words: that's one of the basic ideas behind 21Pictures. But how much can pictures really tell us about someone?
To test that out, we asked one of our colleagues here at 21P HQ (Sam) to choose six photos that sum him up in some way. We then asked another colleague (Arianna) to comment on Sam's images and describe what each one says about him. This was a blind "date": even though they know each other, Arianna didn't realise she was looking at Sam's pictures, since none of them show his face.
Scroll down to see what happened, including Sam's reaction to Arianna's discerning analysis. You'll be glad to know they're still friends.