Last week, I wrote this in my flying review: “It’s funny now to walk around and look at the towering buildings and tiring hills and think about how flat and small everything was from above. No matter how many times I fly, I always have those thoughts. Life is all about perspective, I guess.” I didn’t think about that last line much when I wrote it, but thoughts of perspective crept back to me this past week.
From my photography background, I know that perspective is a very powerful tool to push viewers towards certain emotions for a photograph. Last week, Photography Editor Sidney Kochman ’19 and I were taking cover photos of our new Grand Marshal and President of the Union; we were down in front of West Hall, on the side facing downtown Troy. Sid had the pair stand a few steps higher than him, while he crouched down to get all of West Hall and some of the clouds behind it in the shot. Later, it was clear how potent the photo was. At the bottom, two powerful individuals in suits stand tall and imposing. As the eye makes its way up the image, one feels belittled by the towering building in the background. It’s like looking up at the skyscrapers from the New York City streets. The perspective alone makes for an image of power and authority. The image, for reference, can be found at http://poly.rpi.edu/s/gweey/.
Perspective can also be manipulated through inclusion and exclusion. Take an image of a football player about to catch a ball, with a huge defender bearing down on top of him, about to crush the receiver. From that perspective, it looks bleak for him; he’s about to get pummeled by 300 pounds of fat and muscle. But a quick crop and that defender disappears, along with a part of the story. Someone who hasn’t seen the whole image would be led to believe that this receiver has made a great run and is about to score a touchdown for his team. An entire storyline can be changed from one simple edit.
Now enough with the photograph metaphors.
My quote from before was about life. Specifically, it applies to problem solving. How an individual tackles a problem entirely depends entirely on how that individual views the problem. A situation is only bad because it’s viewed from a “bad” angle, and a situation is only good because the bad bits have been cut out. Yes, driving a fast car is exhilarating, but have you considered the environmental effects? And yes, getting laid off is a terrible thing to have happen, but without it you may never have had the opportunity to travel and meet the love of your life.
Perspective is powerful because it can be changed. A good problem solver knows when and how to change the perspective to solve the problem. On the contrary, a bad problem solver only sees the issue in one way: his own.
So crop the photo, or maybe zoom out for the whole picture. Change the angle of the shot and everything comes out looking differently. See what it looks like from a different angle and then make the decision. But don’t get me wrong—this is not about changing one’s opinion to a new perspective. One does not need to share the beliefs of another to view that person’s side. Disagreement cannot be avoided, but a fight is only a matter of perspective.