Ant Smith



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Reflections on my first solo exhibition


Pictorial Intent Search Engine

first published: Journal of Visual Literacy, Autumn 2003. Volume 23, Number 2, 103-118


Elements of composition in a photographic image cause physical responses in the viewer - the rate of eye movement is directly determined by the composition, as can be the attitude of the viewer's head and shoulders. Such physical effects trigger specific memories in the viewer, and those memories affect the emotional state of the viewer. The act of looking at pictures is much more complex than this, but nether-the-less there is a direct relationship between composition and emotive response. This article will explore those relationships and from the findings will suggest potential applications.


These notes will briefly introduce the basic elements of pictorial composition as the means by which a set of predictable measures can be generated for any picture. The purpose of generating predictable measures being the definition of a none (or less) subjective categorisation of pictures; in order to improve their cataloguing and hence search-ability.

In the current climate of cheap-PCs, digital cameras and CD (Photo-disk) writers the number of images requiring cataloguing is growing at a significant rate. Even with the organisational benefits of a hierarchical filing system and the convenience of a picture-browser, finding a suitable image can be time consuming - even for the home-user. This is compounded by the ability to archive images to CD, where browsing requires continual disk changes. On-line thumbnail (contact) picture-indexes can help, but eventually they too need archiving to off-line store; whereby the search mechanism takes on an additional level of abstraction.

Furthermore, a browser-based search method relies on interpreting each browsed image on the fly against the search criteria - which can be an extremely high-order process. The selection of images is typically the remit of the…

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