Psychology professor captures the mind’s images

Suler shows off his humorous side with “Self Multiplicity.” He became especially interested in taking pictures after digital photography came along because it allows him to change the images after they’re taken. He sees this type of art as “an extension of what we do inside our minds [and with] our imagination.”
By Megan Pendagast

Art meets science with psychology professor John Suler’s exhibit, “Photographic Psychology: Forces That Shape the Psyche,” which is on display at the Art Gallery until Sunday, Oct. 14.

Suler has been a part of Rider’s faculty for 30 years. He not only teaches psychology, but is also known for his work, which deals with how people behave online, as well as his photography.

“I’ve been doing photography my whole life, although I never really liked darkroom work,” Suler said. “When digital photography came along, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. I see it as an extension of what we do inside our minds, in our imagination.”

Suler’s foray into the artistic and the scientific blends both his interests and his profession.

“‘Photographic Psychology’ has been the perfect means of combining all these things I find fascinating as a psychologist: how our creating and reacting to images reflects who we are and how sharing images can be powerful,” Suler said.

According to Anne Sears, the director of External Affairs from Westminster Choir College (WCC), this combination exhibition is composed of images that show “how people respond, create, share and react to images that portray ideas about human psychology.”

Suler’s Flickr account states that this photo, “Addiction”, plays up his daughter’s love of gumballs. He says his wife and daughters  are very supportive of his work.

While Suler has often written about the behavior of people on the Internet, he has also created a number of websites dedicated to different areas, including teaching clinical psychology and classic stories that relay the wisdom of Buddhism and Taoism.

He also has the honor of having a Wikipedia stub dedicated to him. When his name is entered into Google, his picture, birth date and a summary of his work immediately come up in the right hand corner.

“He is internationally recognized as an expert in some emerging fields of psychology, especially the roles of visual images in dreams, meditation, creativity and emotions,” Sears said.

In terms of inspiration, Suler has had support from Rider faculty members.

“Anne Law, the chair of the Psychology Department, was the first one to encourage me to do the exhibition,” Suler said.

He also had encouragement from home and in the Rider art community.

“There are many people [who inspired and supported me in my work], like my wife, Debra, and daughters, Asia and Kira,” Suler said. “Harry Naar invited me to do this exhibition and contributed great ideas.”

Gallery Director Dr. Harry Naar led an artist’s talk this Thursday to facilitate discussion between Suler and the audience. He is enthusiastic about the exhibit.

Suler says “Deindividuation” is a “perfectly massive, blocky, mushy and blurry representation of the concept” for his art gallery exhibition.

“I find this show very exciting because we have someone who is very concerned with the meaning, ramifications and psychological implications of a visual image from someone outside the art world,” Naar said.

Naar also spoke highly of Suler’s creative process.

“He is very sensitive of concepts of how one puts something together,” Naar said. “He’s very aware of the visual and psychological and how they can be organized in a meaningful way.”

As far as exhibits go, this is not the end for Suler.

“Sometime I’d like to do an exhibition of surreal images as a reflection of how the unconscious works,” he said. “I love trying to capture in images the various ways the unconscious thinks.”

The Art Gallery is located in the Bart Luedeke Center. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Suler’s website, which contains a litany of information as well as links to the websites he created, is http://users.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/suler.html.

Contact this writer at pendagastm@theridernews.com

Photoshop is one of Suler’s favorite tools, helping him alter and combine different images and photos, as shown in “The Environment.”
The interesting and thought-provoking angles and contrasting images of “Mind/Body” is what excites Suler the most about this photograph.
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