Do We Only Photograph What We Recognize?

I took this picture six years ago in a place, believe it or not, called, Devils Garden, a magical area in Escalante National Monument, UT.

I took the picture because the subject reminded me of powerful image that I had seen hundreds of time while growing up. I recognized it immediately. (I wonder if I would have seen the picture if the place had not been called Devils Garden - putting the word "devil" in my mind.)

This photo got me thinking: Do we only (or mostly) photograph what we recognize - or what is familiar.

What do you think? And what would you say about this photograph? Here's what a few of my friends had to say about the image.

Dr. Richard Zakia
I connected with the image the instant I saw it. For me it is a contemporary image of the crucification of Jesus on a "tree". He hangs there in pain and sorrow, arms outstretched. The black is a reminder of his death on the cross for the sins of mankind and the bright white sun in the sky represents the resurrection. Outstanding. Powerful.

(Rick here: Check out Dr. Zakia's book, Perception and Imaging. Gets you thinking.)

Steve Inglima
It's a photographic Rorschach test....

We are hard wired to look for recognizable shapes and forms so that we can identify things that matter to us, such as either threats or treats.

So, when we can, we organize anonomous shapes into something that might make sense to us, and we might trim the extraneous information that doesn't quite fit in favor of a more plausable identity.

In the case of the tree's sillouette, to me it has an anthropamorphic prescence of outstrecthed arms on a body, with a foerboding sense...perhaps someone preaching.

A combination of a tree and preacher is a...treacher?

Mike Wong
I see the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz.

Mary Lou Johnson
No doubt it is Christ on the Cross. Beautiful coloring and stark silhouette! It also looks like it is taken from behind him which is a whole different and new perspective. It looks like Christ is looking into the light in these last moments. Very very interesting angle! I like it more and more as I look at it longer. Great job, Rick!

(Rick here: I did the see the "looking into the light" angle. Interesting.)

Bob Sammon
Treebeard pays homage to the sun before the attack on Isengard.

Carolyn Fox
To me, I guess partially due to the size of the main subject in relation to the background, this photograph represents some type of "celestial being" welcoming creatures, & the whole world, into its' protective arms.

Susan Black Aurigemma
Jesus on the cross.

Anna Cary
I see a tree spreading it's "wings", with a little squirrel perched on one of the wings, applauding the break of day. Also, a bird about to take flight from the upper left branch. Altogether, a very upbeat feeling!

Joe Brady
Well, the most obvious to me is a crucifixion story - hands reaching out to the heavens and the bright light above - either seeking relief or welcoming the coming light.

For a science fiction fan, it could be an alien worshipping their sun, or embracing and/or welcoming the arrival of a visiting or returning ship entering the atmosphere in preparation for a landing.

I'm curious to hear what others see!