Iconography: What’s that? Feb10

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Iconography: What’s that?

On a trip to Mayo we spotted Croagh Patrick and thought, “Let’s have it.” Turns out it’s quite pretty and very manageable really. At the top it was very cold. I met a few stalwarts who filled me in on some of the history; one man remembers when they’d ascend in darkness with candles, throngs of people on a pilgrimage. Of course they banned that. Others still go up barefoot. Even with Zamberlans on with Vibram soles I found it fairly challenging; barefoot was never going to be an option for me, not that my soul is as pure all that, you understand.

There were a couple of young fellas hanging around there, about thirteen or so. I asked one of them, the one with straw-coloured hair (which is uncommon nowadays) to take a photo. We were perched behind the sign announcing the summit, four of us. The sun was out, the view was wonderful and on the other side of the little chapel the wind was a bit Tom Crean. The photo caught us with smitten faces, pinkish and weathered, as if we’d been on foot for months in this terrain.

I zoomed in later and took a screen grab of my face and altered it with an app and suddenly (to myself at least) I appeared more, well…heroic. My facial features were virtually annihilated yet it was instantly recognisable as a face. I think what the modification added was a kind of logo, the power of which I know advertisement agencies understand and exploit to the max. I could have been anyone to the untrained eye and yet I was me all the while. My expression was rendered more inscrutable and the scarf I’d worn as a hat obscured the precise dimensions of my head. My eyes are simply black blotches though the nose and cheeks are familiarly mine. All of a sudden I was looking at a version of me though as for that it could have been anyone. But the modification caused me to think of icons and the power of images.

The human brain loves pictures; it is far more comfortable with them than with words. I think it has to do with associations. With pictures there are fewer limitations placed on our associations (even though with words we need to imagine more.) It is the associations that can often provide fertile ground for our voracious minds. Those associations are private, sometimes irrational and probably always quite subjective. But isn’t that what people really are? Aren’t we all just a little off centre in our own unique ways. Iconography is the adoration of the image and testament to the need we have for versions of things that require us to break out of restrictions placed on what we can think and feels…and imagine.