Perception and Knowledge


Takvan, Monica. ‘Perception and Knowledge – In Connection to the Eye and the Senses’, Photography & Culture, 3:3, 321-330

Research in Progress


Perception is often connected to knowledge and information gained through the eyes, and when saying we understand something, the term “I see” is often used.

Is seeing the equivalent of understanding? And is perceiving the same as seeing? If knowledge is gained primarily through eyesight, it can be difficult to see how a blind person makes sense of the world and functions effectively in everyday life.


Pre-gained knowledge adds logic and strategic readings of what we see to what we believe, therefore both blindness and perception are important subjects in my research to understand the implications of how and what we see, leading me to question how vital the role of knowledge and logical assumptions is in perception and sight.

The development of photography and knowledge about eyesight are closely linked, as the first invention in the history of photography was also a key step in understanding sight.

Discoveries later revealed that the brain only receives electrochemical pulses of different frequencies as signals from the senses. To read these signals, we are dependent on “inbuilt” or learned knowledge and rules, as the question about what we see comes in to the equation, do we only see what we know and believe?


Perception is not only connected to the eyes: it is a process of collecting, selecting, translating, and organizing information taken in from use of the senses.


Recognizing lines and dots in, for example cartoon drawing as faces and characters confirms the theory about man’s need to make meaning. Two dots and a line in fact merely two dots and a line; however, we manage to see and face, and even the mood of the face drawn.

The opposite of experience learned through knowledge is knowledge learned through experience.

In his book Ways of Seeing, Berger suggests: “We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice.”

The idea that a blind person therefore cannot see anything is arguable if looking at the word in a more metaphorical way; by interpreting perception as seeing, one can see even with no eyes.

Dreams become visible at night, and memories can be as clear and vivid as if they had happened just the day before. Our mind’s eye restores them for us, leaving us with visual references and an ability to see even when our eyes are not seeking an object.


[describes her practice & research methods]

Perception of objects and places becomes a result of experience and exploration, and what we see is largely affected by what we know. We have from birth gained certain information and knowledge about the world and we continue to make assumptions and learn rules, judging and perceiving according to these.


Juhani Pallasmaa, a Finnish architect and the author of the book The Eyes of the Skin (2005). has a different opinion about the importance of sight, emphasizing the importance of touch, saying, “We do indeed see by our skin” and states that “Our skin s actually capable of distinguishing a number of colours.”


All of our senses contribute to our understanding and view of the world. Perception is not only connected with the eye: the general term “perception” can be separated from the term “visual perception”, and the physical eye and sight can be separated from the mind’s eye and vision.


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