We are surrounded by textures – the structure, feel and appearance of what’s in the world around us. Our binocular vision enables us to see the world in three dimensions but it’s the texture of the objects in the world that really make what we see interesting. We’ve developed expectations about objects around us to a great extent because of the textures we observe – what will be soft, what will be prickly, what will be smooth – and move through our world being attracted to, and deterred from, the many elements we encounter primarily based on our observation of them.
Interestingly, although texture is an integral characteristic of an object, texture alone doesn’t seem to define how we’ll observe an object. The ability to perceive the texture appears to be intimately linked to the direction and type of light used to illuminate an object. Thus, light and shadow can enhance or de-emphasize an object’s texture and thus our desire to interact with it.
Ever notice how people seem to have textures as well? We’ve even adapted our “texture” vocabulary to describe people we come in contact with, creating a verbal shorthand to communicate vast amounts of personality information in a short burst.
“They’re really abrasive.”
“He has a veneer of sophistication.”
“She’s so polished.”
Each of these phrases probably created in your mind an opinion about the subject, even though there is no other information available. And just as light and shadow can vary the texture of an object being photographed, more information or closer contact with the subject of such shorthand usually modifies our opinion, either strengthening it (and confirming the connection of the texture term with the personality trait) or diminishing it.
Business and social relations in the beginning are fraught with the dangers of using such shorthand indiscriminately. How many opportunities have you followed successfully but later looked back on and thought “Good thing I didn’t follow my first impression or what I heard about that or I would have never gone down that path.”?
How we use light and shadow is critical to the story we tell in our photographs, from creepy to joyful. How we seek information or contact to confirm or deny our use of similar terms to shorthand people we meet is critical to how we move through the world and grow. With one side of our brain it’s important to recognize this shorthand is useful to sort through opportunities; with the other side it’s equally important to adjust our ‘light and shadow’ to reach the final result we seek.