Photo Analysis

One of the most interesting, IMHO, studies of the human condition is body language.   Posed or casual, many of us can see the indications that are coming from the way a body presents or does not present itself.

Taking that one step further, if we really look at photographs, we can often observe information that may help us to understand how the people really are.

Let me start by saying that I own a well worn book that is titled "Photoanalysis" written by Dr. Robert U. Akeret.  The book is copyright 1973.  You can see a picture of the book.

I am not going to try to replicate all of what the fine Doctor had to say, but there were a few that really struck me as so obvious (well, only after it was pointed out to me) that anyone can see it.  Let's start with a politician.

Richard Nixon was probably one of the most vilified Presidents in history.  Relative to that observation, check out this photo of him.   Since it is copyright, I cannot print it here.  I would need permission from The New York Times.  While looking at this posed photo, place a paper or other straight edged ‘cover up' and cover the left (your right) side of his face.  I personally see a ‘Mona Lisa' style of smile in this photo you very well may see it differently.  Now, reverse that cover up and what do you see?  I won't comment here.  I hope that you can see for yourself.  Perhaps you can, at the bottom of this blog, comment on what you feel like you see on his right side.

The next photo is one that I use for one of my sites.  I had my actual photo (left) posted and did so-so in my response.  I must note that I (almost) never scare small children and do not need to hide in the basement when company comes a calling.  Then I changed it to the photo on the right which I purchased from a site on the Net.  Can you guess how that site did after the change?  Well, the number of hits nearly doubled. . . .  Did anyone really believe that was a blogger?



Moving right along, let's get more specific about photo analysis.  When you check out body language in photography, you can see interesting things..

You can see the happy expression of my granddaughter (6 at the time, now 13) as she is holding a dog from the local pet store that we walked that day.  She is leaning in to me and so very full of smiles because that dog is wiggling a lot!  It was a fun day.   One can nearly feel the fun in this photo, which was taken by a passerby.   BTW, I was fresh from Phoenix, hence, the really deep tan!




Here are my two grandsons, Luke and Matt.  They live in Chicago and these are 2 years apart.  They are on vacation in both photos. 

The first photo tells a lot of the story.  It is apparent they are having a lot of fun; they are on a cruise; and they are very close, both in age and companionship. 


In the next photo, it is totally unclear what is happening.  They are on vacation again, but what else can you see in the photo?   Without further information, you may feel like they are angry with each other or some other unpleasant event has occurred. 

They live in Chicago, but actually are in New York on the subway.  I feel like they have watched too many NYPD criminal programs on TV, because they are really nervous and uncomfortable.  They did have a great time in NY, but at this moment, they were in fact very uneasy.




So, just looking at a photo does not tell the whole story unless you have a bit of information. 

Suggestions given by Dr. Akeret for reading photos include (not an inclusive list):

  • Read the expressions on the faces, but be careful not to assume that, for instance, a pained expression is not necessarily a permanent situation. It could be the result of a recently stubbed toe.
  • See what is happening in the photo, are the people laughing, talking, dancing or otherwise being active, or are they posed? Posed photos can say a lot as well.
  • Is the background giving information?  Is that information correctly interpreted?  Is there symbolic information there? 
  • Are the people touching?  How about their relationship to others in their group?  How are they relating to each other?
  • Read photos with an open mind and don't assume anything.  Look for reality.

Get your photos out and check out what you see.  If you want to show us your photo and your observations, you can go to the Forum, create a message.  While in the message, select the icon that looks like a strip of film.  Then select browse and follow the prompts to upload it that message.  Return here and let us know what your Forum title is so that we can see a photo that you have made observations upon, or one that you would like to have 'analysized' by the non-professionals at analysis here at AnnTheGran.  That could be a lot of fun!!!

Thanks for reading my blog.  I hope you have a comment about the photo of Richard Nixon.

Pat, The Computerist

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