'The Sound Photo' Instagram Project Paints Entire Pictures Without Using A Single Image
Close your eyes. No, seriously — just close your eyes for a second. Close your eyes, open up your ears, and listen to the world around you. What do you hear? For me, it's the sound of cat's pet fountain, combined with the white noise of my air conditioner and the click-clack of my keyboard as I type. It may not sound like much, but as The Sound Photo Instagram project points out, "not much" can actually be a whole lot. Created by Andrey Varella and Caoi Andrade (who you might remember from the Life Spoiler Sticker project), The Sound Photo reminds us that we don't always need an image to make a memory, call one back up, or even create a whole new experience.
The idea behind The Sound Photo is simple — and it's right there in the title: Sound can be so evocative that we don't necessarily even need an actual picture to be able to "see" a certain object, person, or situation. Accordingly, the posts have only one visual element, and it's the same for all of them: A blank, black square. Clicking on the square, however, plays a distinctive sound or soundscape, with the descriptions and tags instructing you to "tap and imagine" the concept at hand — "chaos," for example:
Or "roller coaster":
Varella and Andrade uses only two rules when decided which sounds to use: They need to be real — as Varella puts it, "No production at all. Just real moments recorded by real people" — and "they must be about a moment that we can 'feel.'"
"We know technology is shaping our behaviors and the way we interact with the world; today it's natural to see people recording videos, taking Snapchats and selfies everywhere. Sometimes, they live in a unique moment through the screen of their smartphone device," Varella tells Bustle via email. "But do we really need a photo [or] video to make a moment remarkable? Or remember it? What if we use technology in a more natural way, without compromising our experiences?"
This, then, is what The Sound Photo hopes to accomplish: Starting a conversation about how we use technology. Says Varella, "We believe it is crucial to stop and reflect about our behaviors, and if @thesoundphoto can make at least one person stop and think about this new way of 'recording moments,' it already makes our work worth it."
Although The Sound Project plays off of imagination quite a bit, for me, it's more about memory. Science has long known that sensory information is linked to memory, with smell being one of the most powerful triggers — but in 2010, research discovered that things like sounds may be paired with emotional information and stored together in the brain's auditory cortex, thus allowing sound to become attached to emotional meaning.
That's why the "chaos" sound photo makes me think of the last apartment I had in New York before I moved to the 'burbs, a place I loved but for the noise that resulted from living on a major avenue. It's what makes "roller coaster" inspire a giddy feeling of anticipation for me — I love roller coasters; I love amusement parks; and this sound alone makes me remember the last ride I took on my favorite roller coaster. Even more interesting, though, is the fact that, for each of us, the same word and sound might prompt wildly different thoughts, feelings, and mental images. The traffic noise that makes up "chaos" might make others think of the worst traffic jam they've ever been stuck in, for example, or "roller coaster" might make someone who thinks they're overrated roll their eyes.
What I think the whole Sound Photo project gets at is the idea of things, more than the things themselves — because sometimes, ideas can be much more tangible than physical objects.
Want to submit your own sound? Send it to the soundphoto AT gmail DOT com. It might open up a whole world of memories for people you've never even met.
Sound images: @thesoundphoto/Instagram (3)