by Milo Sumner in New Photography on Friday 20 June 2014

Cogito Ergo Sum, I think, therefore I am. A clever man, was Descartes, especially considering that he was grappling with the very nature of reality. A spot of Philosophy now, how much of what we see, smell and hear around us can we trust to be one hundred percent truthful? How do we know that what we perceive is reality? The simple answer is (if you can call it simple) that we don’t. You and I haven’t a hope of discerning what is really real beyond what our sense tell us, perception is reality, what you see is what you get.

Enough mumbo jumbo. Here is an intriguing photo series from young Australian photographer Sebastian Petrovski exploring the assertion that perception is indeed reality. Two years ago, fresh out of high school, the Melbourne-based Petrovski created a number of diptych portraits of various models. Each diptych shows a model in drastically different lighting and setting. The changing colours and shadows fool the viewer’s eye into thinking that facial features are changed, causing us to perceive a person’s face differently depending on external stimuli.

Petrovski’s statement that accompanied the project at the time:

‘I perceive and I assume I can distinguish between true perception and false perception. However, if I cannot prove (without doubt) whether what I perceive is real then how can I be certain if I am perceiving at all Cogito ergo sum. The first and, what I believe to be, the only item of knowledge. Perception is my reality and this is where I am forever trapped. Or am I free?’

When we asked him about the project recently, he had this to say:

‘I made this series of images to deal with my own struggles of perception. I have always found it interesting that two or more people can experience the same physical reality but have completely different reactions to it. In Hindsight, two years later, I think I was reflecting on the massive downer the whole of my final year of high-school was for me. For some reason I was one of those adolescents who felt detached and depressed about my situation – which was confusing for me. I was doing well at school, I had friends and my family was awesome.

I don’t think the project has had any significant effect on people. I made the project for me. If other people get something out of it that is rad. I know for sure some of the subjects didn’t like how they look in either photo, which is fine by me, the portraits are supposed to be honest and far from any notion of ideals.”

It’s curious stuff, and since then Petrovski has grown and developed as a photographer. Check out his website for more of his work.

Petrovski used a Nikon D700, Nikon 85mm 1.4G lens to capture the project.