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Images that you can feel: what is synesthesia?

Can images make noise? Is a sound colored? Can an image evoke a smell? Many studies confirm it. It is a phenomenon called “synesthesia“.

What is synesthesia? 

Synesthesia (from Greek syn = together and aisthesis = sensation), in literature, is a particular type of metaphor. To clarify, it consists of associations of two words, that refer to different sensory spheres (for example: “warm voice”, “clear sounds”). 

Instead, in the field of psychology, synesthesia represents a phenomenon that consists in experiencing, meanwhile, different sensory perceptions. According to this psychological perspective, a given stimulus involves the functioning of one or more senses, different from those normally used for its processing. For example, words can evoke flavors, numbers colors, images sounds or tactile sensations, etc.

Seeing a picture of the food we love, can make us feel its taste; a certain smell or aroma can bring images to mind; we can associate certain photos with sounds, noises, or music. One of the most common forms of synesthesia is the one that associates numbers, days of the week, or months to a certain color. 

© Guido Fuà

Is photography synesthesia?

To think that a photographer uses only sight to create his works, it’s a mistake. And to think that a viewer enjoying photos only through sight, it’s a big mistake. In reality, when the photographer is involved in the creation of a photograph, he lives a multisensory experience, which involves his mind and all his senses.

He perceives the surrounding atmosphere, he feels the heat of the sun or the cold of the air on his skin; his nostrils pick up odors and perfumes, and he listens to the sounds and noises of life flowing around him. In other words, all 5 senses operate at the same time and help to define the sensory experience he is having. He is living a synesthesia.

The task hard of the photographer is to capture and communicate the sensations and emotions of each situation. Certainly, the difficulty is transmitting this multifaceted experience through photography. Consequently, how will the viewers of the pictures, be able to experience the same perceptions that the photographer had experienced?

How to stimulate synesthesia trough images

More or less, synesthesia can be able to activate by everyone. Therefore, we can make interact our senses with each other, but we have to stimulate this ability because it is latent.

© Guido Fuà

The photographer has a powerful tool to stimulate it. It consists to produce and propose effective images, that have a hidden meaning. More difficult it is to identify or interpret the meaning, more the image is effective and persuasive. You have to look hard and analyze what the image is secretly hiding in, and you will understand what it has to say.

 “More interpretations there are, more time we have to think, to dream, to delve into the image. An image is the opposite of a forbidden way sign meaning” (Jean-Christophe Bailly)

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