Softly drawing out memories

Have you ever been in an art gallery and heard someone “explain” a piece of art to a companion? If you have, then you might remember a touch of annoyance at what was clearly a wrong explanation. Later, when I think about such incidents, I’m amazed by the way exactly the same image can draw different reactions from people. That is a lesson for me, when I create images. What I show can be totally different for different people. The grass flowers in the featured photo evoke in me a sense of their softness. I have memories of walking through fields of kans grass (Saccharum spontaneum) and feeling the soft bunches of flowers brushing against me. To enhance that feeling, I made it into a high key photo, so that your eye cannot easily focus on the edges. The soft morning’s backlight cooperated with me in this. I also remember the touch of coolness in the air. But what does this image convey to you?

Images contain much more than the single purpose you might have in mind. This is why images are obscure ways in which to convey meaning. When I took the photo of this spotted owlet (Athene brama) nesting in a hole in a concrete block I though it showed the adaptibility of all living things. Today I think of it as a study in contrasting textures, the hard shadows on the man-made structures contrast with the soft fuzziness of the shadows on the owl’s feathery coat. In order to emphasize texture, I desaturated the colour of the bricks. Who knows what I might see in the image a week from now?

I look on people’s memories as an ally in the making of images. When I spotted this cliff covered in moss on a bird-watching trip, I took a few photos so that I could study the identification of mosses later. But someone else said “Ooh. It looks like a rainforest in miniature.” Sure it does. He leveraged his memory to make a photo. But then a bunch of other bird-watchers came along and started taking the same photo and saying the same thing. That’s how association works in our minds: creating recognition, triggering mimicry. That’s something that politicians and advertising work on very much better than poor sods with cameras. But today I can turn those same images into a question: do you really have to see the contrast between hard rock (!) and moss to recall the softness of running your hand over a moss covered wall? Or does the lower image, with no rock showing, do as well?

Spiders are among my least watched photos: too many people have an aversion which triggers instantly. I love the colours, although I’m shaky at their identification. But spider webs? They are among my most liked photos. Sharp focus is needed to capture a spider web. To me this is a fairly good spider photo: the light was just right to glint off the strands of silk in the web, I caught the colourful spider in sharp focus, and there is still enough of its environment to tell you how this wood spider strings its large web between trees to catch insects which fly about two meters above ground. Do you see the softness of spider silk when you see this photo?


By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Interesting images and questions following…about how we percieve things and react to them. The kans grass speaks to me, maybe as I have childhood memories of walking through fields of grass like this and loving the soft touch agains my bare skin. The owlet is a beautiful image in any of your meanings – and desaturating it I guess enhanced the blending in of the bird too. I need no rock to feel the softness of the moss. Spiders are not my favourites…but the soft net is always a wonder, though in this image I see the spider at first glance – then the net.
    A thought provoking post. I love details.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Actually without direct sunlight on the bird it looked pretty sooty and blended with the colour of the concrete. I selectively lowered the saturation on the brick; I didn’t desaturate it completely.


  2. Another great post I. J.! I like the cliff showing through its soft blanket of moss. The owlet shows how it is protected from predators. I enjoy spider webs too, especially when there are dew drops on the silk. grass is beautiful. I can feel it swaying in the breeze. Well done.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I love the grasses in your header image, IJ. You ask very interesting questions in your post. I think the sensory memories are stored with the image. I remember the autobiography of Helen Keller when she learned her first word in Braille–how she paired the physical sensation of water with the word spelled into her hand. For some people, one sensory type is stronger than the others. I guess for all of us who photograph our visual sense is very strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have very mixed feelings about this. When I paint, I paint SOMETHING, and it’s normally recognizable as itself. I KNOW people will throw their own interpretation onto it, and that’s OK, but too often people don’t look at what is THERE. They look at the painting or image as if it were a mirror. What a lonely, rather solipsistic way to view the outside world! Like your moss image. It IS moss and it DOES look like a rainforest from the sky. Nature’s replicating patterns are fascinating and really there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love photographs that tell a story. The technique is in crafting the image as seen in the mind’s eye, and I guess that’s where every photographer produces a different image of the same object.
    I saw the expression of the owl as a contrast to its soft feather body, wise beyond its apparent softness, similar to the hard wall. That was the story. A spider’s web is always a story of resilience to me and I loved this one. The moss and the stone brought the cliche of a rolling stone gathers no moss… to mind 😀 the kans phool is always reminiscent pf Durga pujo and Pather Panchali.
    Lovely images, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A very interesting approach this week I.J. – enjoyed your perspective on responses to images. Must admit I had to go back after reading about the owl because I didn’t see it in my original look! It’s marvelous!!

    Liked by 2 people

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