Home Edizioneed. 6 The Mechanisms of Vision

The Mechanisms of Vision

by AdminAg

Written by Simone Angarano

Vision is a very complex phenomenon that goes beyond the simple perception of the image projected on the retina. Seeing is not a passive, automatic and regular action but a very intense and tiring one that explores, recognises and scans external reality through movements guided by the brain.

So the eye sees reality with a mechanism quite different from that of the camera: while the camera records a unitary image at once, the eye records a sequence of details, or rather scans the elements of the image in sequence. For this, a few characteristic elements of the subject are sufficient to call it to mind.

The principles of visual perception were developed at the turn of the century in Germany by the Gestalt school of psychology and proved to be able to interpret the mechanism of vision in a stimulating way, shedding new light on the way images are read.

The essential principles of this theory, which also affect photography, are inspired by the term Gestalt (meaning ‘grouping’, ‘structure’, ‘ensemble’).

The essential principles of this theory, which also affect photography, are inspired by the term Gestalt (meaning ‘grouping’, ‘structure’, ‘ensemble’).

A set of visual elements is something broader and different from the simple sum of its parts. This means, for example, that in a photographic portrait the elements in the picture will produce a different meaning, a different reading of the same figure according to the way they are grouped and organised.

In the field of visual communication, we can combine the concept of signal/noise, which is fundamental in all types of signal communication, for example in the field of sound reproduction: in our case, the ratio becomes figure/background.

In other words, even in the transfer of visual information, there is a signal, which can be for example a face, a human figure, and a background that tends to confuse the message and make it less readable, which corresponds to the set of elements in the image that make the perception of the subject itself less immediate

The higher is this ratio, the sharper, ‘high fidelity’ the image will be regardless of the type of content.

The following four principles enable the visual mechanism to be interpreted.

Principle of proximity.

The closer the visual elements of an image are, the higher the probability that they will be perceived as a whole. In photography, this criterion is very important: since in the reduction from the three dimensions of reality to the two dimensions of photographic composition, elements on different planes are compressed onto a single plane, they will easily be seen as a whole with the subject if they are close to it.

Principle of similarity.

Visual elements that are similar in shape, tone and size tend to be perceived as related. The most important and general case concerns symmetry or repetition, which create rhythm and unity to the image.

Principle of continuity.

Elements in a line that have the fewest breaks are perceived as a continuous line. This explains how aligned elements tend to be seen as lines and draw the eye overwhelmingly.

Closed form principle.

Lines and shapes are more easily perceived if they are closed, i.e. not interrupted, like a circle or polygon. There are many examples of this principle in figurative art. For example, in the

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