How do we evaluate what we see? Does it matter the source of the material from which light is reflected into the eye and processed by the brain? Do we value light reflected from one source more than another? We do value in the sense that the brain interprets certain wavelengths of reflected light as color. If the light we perceive is red, does it matter if it is reflected from a bug’s wing, oil paint, printing ink on paper, or on a computer monitor?
No matter what the source, the evaluation occurs through a cognitive process of forming or accessing perceptions. “Perceptions are not regarded as internal pictures or sounds, but rather as language-like descriptions coded, we suppose, by brain structures of what may be out there. We carry in our heads predictive hypotheses of the external world of objects, and of ourselves. These brain-based hypotheses of perception are our most immediate reality. But they involve many stages of physiological signaling and complicated cognitive computing, so experience is but indirectly related to external reality (Gregory, 1998).”
The predictive hypothesis that our brains use are based on our own limited experiences. Past visual experiences may be very important in interpreting or valuing contemporary data. For example, when we see a large furry four footed animal, we may “see” horse, but in actuality, a moment later we realize that we are seeing a moose. Because photographs, prints or oil paintings are processed through a bio-behavioral neurological system, I would argue that the methods used to evaluate photography are the same as evaluating anything else which we “see”.
I am including an example below. I created this drawing using oil pastels around 1990 when I was living in Alaska. I drew what I had in front of me—and I drew on the floor (this does not aid in accurate rendering of perspective.) When considering systems of photographic image or art theory, how would you judge my photographic image of a drawing?
Gregory, R. (1998). Brainy Mind. British Medical Journal. P5.