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“Mystery Girl”

If a picture tells a story, it can also ask a question. That question is then answered by the viewer, who uses the summary of past images and experiences to interpret or figure out the context and story behind the image. This process is known as “projection” and is the attribution of one’s own attitudes, feelings, or desires to someone else. We all do this without even being aware of it, but this explains why different people have very different reactions to the same art piece or image. This is especially true when the art or image is controversial. Figure drawing or photography is a good example–where some people see beauty, and others see something bad or subversive. This is why the human body is such a battleground, as it is our temple and our source of pain and pleasure. Our attitudes toward our own body is strongly projected onto any image we see, and how we respond to that image. It is helpful to realize how strong our need to project our ideas onto what we see as a way to understand what is happening. This means–if I strongly react to an image, either positively or negatively, it is helpful to ask ourselves what idea or experience we have had that brings out that reaction. This is how all art becomes self revealing to the viewer.

So how does this image relate? This young woman is neither religious or foreign, but a U.S.A. citizen working as a model for a workshop. Even I, who took this image, have trouble seperating the real from the projected idea of a person who is from another country and culture, since that is the picture I am most familiar with. Being aware of the power of projection can sometimes change what we think we know about the world.

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