Windows: Memory and the Gaze

Hirsch Marianne (POSTMEMORY definition)

Photos are like a unique aroma from childhood.  A certain scent or perfume would take me back to memories linked to a smell that is linked to part of my life.  For example, a perfume called (nude) reminds me of my days at college when I used to wear that perfume and it brings back memories.  Photos are the same.  When images were first made; their role was to evoke the appearance of something that was absent then represent how somebody looked like or how others remember him.  Photos became records that are more precise and rich than any other type of art.  However, when an image is used to be presented as an art work; people see it in a different way making different assumptions about it.  Those assumptions concerning its beauty, form, taste and truth.

Studies showed the person’s direction of gaze whether direct or avert impacts his/her future memorability.  According to Baron-Cohen (995), detecting the presence of eyes and determining where they are looking is one of the primary objectives of the social brain (brothers, 1990).  The way we see things is affected by what we believe or know.

Gaze means looking long and steadily with affection and admiration or surprise or thought.  It was a term that was put into usage by a Psychoanalyst called Jacques Lucan.  Lacan argues that the subject loses sense of self when realizing that he or she is a visible object.  Jean Paul Sartre a French Philosopher regard gaze as a place of conflict between the self to define and redefine itself.  When we are confronted with the gaze of the others; we become aware of our self as object.  The gaze of others robs us of our freedom as a subject.

Gaze is considered an important way of communication.  There are several forms and types of gaze in photography:

  • The spectator’s gaze:  the gaze of the viewer at an image of a person or an animal or an object.
  • The intra-diegetic gaze:  the gaze of one portrayed person to another within the same image.
  • The direct [or extra-diegetic] address to the viewer:  the gaze of a person portrayed in the image looking out of the frame as if at the viewer.
  • The look of the camera:  the gaze of the photographer (the way the camera looks at people).
  • The gaze of a bystander:  the gaze of another individual in the viewer’s social world catching the latter in the act of viewing.
  • The averted gaze:  the portrayed person looking away from the camera deliberately avoiding the photographer or viewer such as looking up or down or away.
  • The gaze of an audience within the text:  an audience watching those performing in the ‘text within a text’.
  • The editorial gaze:  ‘the whole institutional process by which some portion of the photographer’s gaze is chosen for use and emphasis’ (Lutz & Collins 1994, 368).

Looking into my archives; I found portraits that are examples of some of the types of gazes (click on images to view):


Bibliography / References:

Bruce M. Hood, C. Neil Macrae, Malia F. Mason (2004).  Look into my eyes: Gaze direction and person memory [online].  Memory.  Available from: [Accessed 17, December 2016].

Catherine Lutz, Jane Collins. The Photograph as an Intersection of Gazes:  The Example of National Geographic. [online]. Visual Anthropology Review.  Available from: [Accessed 17, December 2016]

Daniel Chandler.  Notes on The Gaze:  Forms of Gaze. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 17, December 2016]

Joh Berger.  Ways of Seeing. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 17, December 2016]

The Chicago School of Media Theory.  Gaze. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 17, December 2016]


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