‘Our inability to read images permits our mass manipulation’

Sound Off: Julia Gelezova on . . . Visual illiteracy

Julia Gelezova: “Everyone is exposed to a relentless visual culture but not everyone has a discerning understanding of it and how we consume it.”

Julia Gelezova: “Everyone is exposed to a relentless visual culture but not everyone has a discerning understanding of it and how we consume it.”

 

Today, images are distributed to an unimaginable extent and we have become increasingly reliant on them. Surely then, if we have the tools to create and distribute images, should we also not possess the skills necessary to read and decode images and, most importantly, have the tools to question them?

Everyone is exposed to a relentless visual culture but not everyone has a discerning understanding of it and how we consume it. This is especially relevant when it comes to photography, as photographs are still presumed to represent some kind of truth. This lack of understanding of what an image represents, its purpose, context, and ultimately its intended message, is defined as visual illiteracy.

Face value

Propaganda, censorship and manipulation are easy outcomes in this environment. In an era flooded with overstimulation and a lack of thinking, images that challenge more than those which are merely “beautiful” frustrate individuals and are abruptly rejected. They are consumed at face value and we don’t question what they represent or understand what is on display, as we were not given the tools in our primary education.

As Moholy-Nagy said: “It is not the person ignorant of writing, but the one ignorant of photography, who will be the illiterate of the future.”
As Moholy-Nagy said: “It is not the person ignorant of writing, but the one ignorant of photography, who will be the illiterate of the future.”

As an image maker, one should use images to visually construct and talk about something relevant, meaningful – something that matters, that challenges and something that sticks. As a viewer, one should remain critical and consider what is presented and represented, in a wider cultural and political context. Listen and engage in the discourse of contemporary visual culture. As Moholy-Nagy said: “It is not the person ignorant of writing, but the one ignorant of photography, who will be the illiterate of the future.”

Julia Gelezova is the general manager of PhotoIreland Foundation

Sound Off: Do you have something you’d like to Sound Off about? Email 300 words to magazine@irishtimes.com with Sound Off in the subject line

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.