How perception is forged on the steel of imaging.

8/2/20232 min read


Imaging is an umbrella term for the formation of mental images of a future event and thus key in building the expectation thereof. Imaging contains the acts of seeing images, hearing stories, reading news or reviews, experience some exported culture of a place et cetera, that all lead to building the expectation of the actual encounter of that destination. When visiting tourist destinations for instance, expectations are often shaped by images depicting those places and to validate their experiences, visitors capture their individual albeit very similar photographic snapshots. Although these images portray an individual experience (“me in front of the Eiffel tower”), they are a repetition of a close to endless row of images of people in front of the Eiffel tower. Their significance thus lies less in the individuated version of “the Eiffel tower photo” and more in their place in the system of producing photos of the Eiffel tower on this scale. The significance is thus given “by Proxy” by the large volume of similar photos, the image itself is “anyimage” of that event. The collection of these individual images contributes to the imaging and formation of identities that influence the expectations of other visitors, especially when shared on social media. These imagings encompass both literal and metaphorical dimensions, representing visions of choice and ambition as well as artificial identities and surrogate memories, leading to the creation of an exo-identity.

At a larger scale, this process of identity creation impacts population mobility by the formation of worldviews and other information biases. This has become painfully clear with the advent of images produced by artificial intelligence, which without exception, draw from the large volume of available photos as a source of “learning” how to construct new images. As a result, images are produced that affirm and propagate representational biases as they are built from stereotypes, creating “representations” that are heavily gender, racially and ethnographically biased. The images produced to portray terrorists, stewardesses, ceo’s et cetera, are affirming a specific view on what people in those roles look like and as obviously these images themselves become part of the new “learning curve” of next generations of images. The blueprint for “the image by proxy” already excised before the digital age, but its force and speed has been rapidly increased by the current information architecture, which will only fuel itself to even greater speeds and bigger volumes. The recursive interplay of imaging, expectation, and perception shapes an individual's reality both mentally (image-expectancy) and physically (image-perception) is part of what we call “the Image by Proxy”.

Photo-credit: Alfred T. Palmer, photographer, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. No known restrictions on publication.

Title: Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California, USA. October 1942.