Novelty and Surprise in Photography


by Editor Wicher Bos 

We all recognize it, humans are triggered by new things – things that challenges our brain. Perhaps it is one of our driving forces to make holiday travel and be confronted with new environments.

'Cheers!' by Ivan Stanimirov

Dr. Jordan Peterson in his book “Maps of Meaning” provides a deep analysis as to why humans need this fundamental behaviour. He was not the first – however his book contains a graphic that clearly shows we need to make the choice on the encounter of something new.

source: Maps of Meaning 1999 J.B. Peterson _ (The book is not about photography specifically)

Novelty drives our attention, for a reason. Our survival may depend on the choice we make. Hence our focus on any ‘out of the norm’ behaviours or situations or things… Novelty triggers us for an emotional choice. Combine this knowledge with a quote from Peter Adams (
Sydney, 1987) “Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.” Then we might understand the importance of novelty for photographers. I believe this to be a key element for successful and artistic photography.

Follow me on an experiment to discover if there is any truth in the importance of novelty.

I selected, using the keyword surprise for some images that I think contain some kind of novelty, and surprise. Some by the juxtaposition of visual elements in the frame, others by the thought it communicates, the post-processing that was done or the feelings it triggers.

Some images may cause a brief moment of anxiety. Others definitely on the positive side of response – a smile.

n/t by Radovan Skohel


'3D tattoo' by Ivan Stanimirov


'Sumo jump' by David williams


'don't Swallow the Seeds' by Mike Melnotte


'Ear Candy' by Mike Melnotte


'Close Encounter of the Swimming Kind' by Christophe Kiciak


'The Chocolate Princess' by Christophe Kiciak


'Inspiration' by Carlo Ferrara

'In the middle of the centre' by Carlo Ferrara




'Portrait bw Cow and Girl' by MIKHAIL POTAPOV


'*' by Mikhail


'*' by Olga Barantseva


'*' by Olga Barantseva


'Surprise !!!' by Pedro Jarque


'Look at Me' by Leah Xu


'Crossing the wave' by Leah Xu

I hope you enjoyed this selection. Novelty and Surprise trigger attention in a photograph.

The opposite seems true as well:
Beauty … dimmed to us by the mist of familiarity(The Critic as Artist 1890, Oscar Wilde)

As always, I just express my personal views and feelings… also in selecting these specific images. Let me know your favourite examples or if you disagree, why… I am studying this subject, so any input will be appreciated.

Wicher Bos


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