View Full Version : Photographers and Perception

23-09-2011, 4:23pm
Photographers would generally have good perception, one would think. We tend to be more alert to our immediate environment, waiting, watching, ready to anticipate a fleeting event, to ensure we capture it in pixels.

Consider this:

Perception - this is worth reading!!


In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one recognised him, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognise talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ..

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

Enjoy life NOW .. it has an expiration date.

Would you have stopped and listened. When was the last time you walked past a busker and didn't really take any notice of them, and who they were?

Something to think about!

23-09-2011, 5:49pm
This dosnt surprise me at all Rick. About 3 years ago i stopped work for health reasons and every morning I would get out of bed and not even be able to sit on the couch long enough to have a coffee without wanting to walk out the door and go to work. I had been busy for so long that taking the time to stop and sit for a minute became a problem to me. In a world were productivity is valued more than quality it is not really surprising that people have forgotten how to slow down and enjoy the moment for what it is.

23-09-2011, 6:05pm
I don't know enough about the set up, but perhaps a DC train station as a location might have influenced the response.

But I do think we are programmed to rush on by and not take the time to enjoy what is around us. I have stopped to listen to &/or watch buskers in Melbourne when I have found them interesting or enjoyable, but only when I've been there for shopping or with plenty of time to kill. If there is work to be done I would feel guilty if I took the time to enjoy.

My other reaction to the story was. DC station $3.5M violin. Brave man:D

23-09-2011, 6:17pm
This does not surprise me either., sadly, and I know I would have been one to walk on that time, only because I am not a violin lover though. We hae been known to spend a lot of time admiring busker talents, particularly at Tamworth Country music festival.

We had an experience at Cobar when we lived there. The whole town was looking forward to Gina Jeffries (yeah, yeah, country music again) in concert. It happened in early 1990's and it happened the mystery support act was an unknown fellow that almost all the audience booed and heckelled all the way through his show. It was sad and I was soooooo close to getting up on stage and telling these people to shut up. We thought he was incredible. His name......

Troy Cassar Daley.:cool:

Goes to show how once someone becomes popular, their status changes.


23-09-2011, 6:26pm
TBH, I believe I would've stopped and listened. I'm quite sensitive to classical music and probably would recognise Bach for a start. Also the novelty of someone playing Bach and indeed one of the more complex pieces in a buskers setting would have least caused me to stop and listen, having played music I can appreciate those with extensive talents. There is a huge difference between a well played violin and just your normal player. In terms of picking the famous violin I probably wouldn't notice as much, I generally find they don't stand out unless played against other violins.

It is a very interesting social experiment though, and one that doesn't surprise me. Just as a case in point, yesterday while driving along a busy road with hundreds of others, I was the only one to stop when i noticed an older gentlemen abruptly stopped in the Right hand lane and slumped over the wheel...numerous cars drove past without even stopping to check the guy was ok. (He had some sort of seizure). People are so focussed in their own tiny piece of the world they forget to look outside, a realise the world is much bigger than they are. Australians are shocking for it.

23-09-2011, 6:31pm
i don't think this is about perception.
firstly there is expectation. who would have been expecting Joshua Bell to be there.
how many would rdecognise the music and the quality of the playing
how many would recognize Joshua Bell, or even heard of him.
the majority of the people would have been preoccupied with getting to their destinations
then there is the issue of stereotypes. people would not expect a top musican to be busking using an expensive violin.

JM Tran
23-09-2011, 7:22pm
well if he was playing with a Stradivarius, not only would I have stopped to listen, I would have done a grab and snatch on the violin too:D

23-09-2011, 8:32pm
I have read a story that hi vis vests are now so commonplace that they are invisible or ignored by most of us now. Perverse isnt it.

old dog
23-09-2011, 8:45pm
another lesson in life Rick....people don`t make the time anymore...they are too rushed, hassled, greedy, impatient, etc etc. Bottom line is the world is becoming loveless and selfish....sad to say the least.

23-09-2011, 10:12pm
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognise talent in an unexpected context?
Couple of assumptions that are implicitly taken here:
1) Beauty. I guess most people that where passing by would not have agreed the music was beautiful simply because they don't like classical music at all. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
2) Appreciation. Whilst I'm a big classical music fan, there are times I can't appreciate certain types of music. Rush-hour on the way to work is one such time. I don't play classical music in the car on the way to work every morning either.
3) How well can the talent be spotted in such an environment? Most metro stations are full of noise of screeching trains, people, soundblasters, announcers, traffic and do not have appropriate acoustics for music. Try playing music whilst in your own bathroom - sounds horrible!

Would you have stopped and listened. When was the last time you walked past a busker and didn't really take any notice of them, and who they were?
No, I prolly would not have stopped and listened. But than again, I do not stop and listen when I'm on a leisurely stroll through the city on a sunny Saturday afternoon either whilst I do visit the Amsterdam concert hall on Sunday mornings occasionally. The mindset just is different than.

Bottom line: there's a place and time for everything. Just not everywhere and all time.

23-09-2011, 10:29pm
Yeah I would have stopped for a little while, but not for the whole piece as if I'm in a train station, chances are, I need to be on a train shortly, and sadly the train isn't going to be waiting for me.

When I was working in town and catching the train, there'd frequently be buskers in the tunnel leading from the station. I stopped for the good ones and listened for a while, but if heading home (towards the train), I'd smile and keep wandering.

23-09-2011, 10:51pm
Hmmm I sat through an original opera the other night...sung by a professional soprano.....everyone was raving about how good it was.....except me :( I thought it was .....different, discordant, forced, under rehearsed....god awful.....
So maybe the people in the subway/train station listen to jazz or rap or folk......and all the bach lovers drove to work :)