Collaboration – Discussing Epistemology and how we develop perceptions with Psychologist Dr Huw Peterson

Having completed the shooting and editing phase of my project, I felt the need to really comprehend the concepts of Epistemology and to define exactly what I was trying to accomplish with this set of images. I had set about writing a brief text to serve as an introduction to a photo book and also to provide accompanying text my new website.

I arranged to meet with a consultant Psychologist who I was hoping would review the images and the introductory text and perhaps offer some words of advice and further explanation. I met Dr Huw Peterson in Bristol and we discussed the project in some detail. Our conversation added clarity to my goals and allowed me to update my text with a new level of understanding.

Some of the topics we discussed in detail included:

  • The concept of constructivism. Jean Piaget’s theory that knowledge (or learned knowledge) as an outcome of experience. Those experiences are derived from perceptions. I had already previously studied the work of Piaget during my teacher training so it was not entirely new to me. Our conversation however allowed me to develop my prior knowledge into a new and relevant context suitable for this project
  • Looking into Constructivism in more detail, we considered the idea that prior knowledge will always sway perception unless we have no prior knowledge. We will always be influenced by our social context. From this statement we can make assumptions that if we know a small about of knowledge about something, adding more information will allow us to build on that knowledge and lead us to develop deeper perceptions.
  • We moved on further to discuss our social context. We concluded that our perceptions are typically based on a social narrative which creates a dominant discourse in our lives. By this we are defining the idea that our perceptions are influenced by social conditioning from the world around us. It would be fair to say the only person able to develop a perception and then a truth from given information without some sort of influential factor would be a new born child. This effectively means that anyone viewing the images will approach the experience with a preconceived idea. This was an interesting point and has led me to reconsider the design of my book cover. I will be removing the dust jacket to present the book as a blank entirety as possible.
  • Our conversation drew to an end as we considered that perceptions can be an immediate visual experience in the context of my images and that our perceptions fit into our pre-existing belief system. Our conversation concluded with us deciding that once we have made up our mind of what we perceive to be a truth, it is very difficult for us to correct our initial perceptions.

Based on the discussion I had with Dr Peterson, I have re-written my introductory text for both the book and website. The text now reads as follows.

Natural Perceptions

The series Natural Perceptions challenges human decision making in developing conclusions from given visual stimuli. 

What the eye sees is not always real. The perceptions of truth we develop can easily become devoid of reality. Truth, knowledge and belief have become blurred notions of everyday life. In a digital age of social media and news outlets with camouflaged political bias, separating fact from fiction has never held more importance. Living within in a global culture of untruths and misinformation, decision making based on critical analysis of information presented is becoming a forgotten skill.

Psychologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget discussed the theory of Constructivism in the early nineteenth century. It was Piaget who devised that knowledge and learning are an active and constructive process where the learner constructs subjective knowledge on the basis of active experience and perception.

“Knowing reality means constructing systems of transformations that correspond, more or less adequately, to reality.”

Jean Piaget

Without perception, we have no real knowledge. Perceptions exist as multi layered conclusions derived of the senses and not fact. The things we see and hear lead us to develop perceptions based on what is presented to us.

This collection of photographs allows the viewer to negotiate a discourse surrounding the conclusions they may impulsively make and to perhaps see beyond what is initially presented.

I am extremely grateful for the time Dr Peterson took to review my photography and writing, which has allowed me to clarify what it is I am aiming to achieve with this project. 


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