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Issue 1836 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

A Sensory Experience

How to share sound, smell, taste, and touch through the sense of sight.

Flx Jonahs Photo Photo: Jonah Hewett


in Issue 1836

There is something contradictory about the senses. Perceiving the world around us is a natural thing to do, but it feels very unnatural to think about. Consider where you are right now. Do you feel your feet? Not just their presence, but also the texture of the socks you’re wearing. Take a deep breath, what can you smell? Close your eyes. Is that same smell stronger now? Listen to the sound your heart makes thumping in your chest. Are you always aware of it?

This perception of the world around us, however, isn’t purely informational, it’s evocative too.

I’m sure you’ve had a cup of tea before; you know the taste, the smell, the senses that it tingles as it runs down your throat. The warmth you feel on your palms as you look at the mug’s colourful design. 

Now look at Jonah’s picture. The cup of tea is the obvious subject, but the photo evokes some other scene, something personal and familiar to the viewer, maybe a childhood memory or a last Sunday. 

The picture transforms into a wonderful mirror of our own personal, sensory experience.

Flx Jonahs Photo Photo: Jonah Hewett

I won’t ruin this comment by talking about Jonah’s technical skills too much, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the razor-sharp focus, the mellow shadows, the soft highlights, and the great composition that makes us feel like participants in this tea ceremony. Just a little bonus for the photographers out there who think that the camera takes the picture.

Minor White, a twentieth century American photographer, took many pictures on this same topic. “At first glance, a photograph can inform us. At second glance it can reach us,” he once said.

This is a great way to describe Jonah’s picture: at first glance, a cup of tea; at second glance, some long-lost heartwarming memory. Peeled Paint (1959) by White offers a comparison to this photo. You can almost feel and touch the paint, but the real subject of the image is an evocation, a symbol of our own which doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else.

Untitled is a powerful picture, one that can speak differently to everyone who looks at it. I’d call it A Quiet Sip, but I suggest you give the photo your own title.

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