As human beings we’ve always been fascinated by images. From the dawn of time, we’ve attempted to record moments or events that we wanted to share with others through the power of visuals. The technical advancements we’ve seen over the last several years has made it possible for more people to share their stories through the power of images. It seems that today that we are on the brink of discovering a new visual literacy as more and more of us communicate through visuals.

“We’re starting to use images to communicate in a new way with one another. Imagery is a universal language that has no borders and described truths and stories that all humans can recognize,” writes travel photographer, Trey Ratcliff, in his essay “A Universal Language of Images“. He believes that we’re on the brink of a new revolution, a visual revolution which will empower people like never before. I agree with Ratcliff. It seems like today with all the camera phones, sharing sites like Instagram, Flickr, YFrog that we are indeed poised for a visual revolution. I can remember a time not that long ago, when looking at individual’s vacation photos was a dreaded activity. Flash forward ten years and taking and sharing a snapshot has become a primary way we communicate.

How did we get here?

“Pictures are everywhere, and children and grownups alike crave new pictures, new stories,” writes Ratcliff. Liking and wanting images is in our DNA. The human brain has evolved to process images faster and easier. In fact, according to science blogs, pictures and spoken words are recalled more accurately than printed words. It turns out that we remember pictures about 1.5 times more often than printed words – so it’s not a wonder that we are fascinated by images. The single largest advancement in moving towards a visual revolution, was the camera phone. Now, everyone has the ability to take a photo on the go and with 600 million more people owning a cell phone than a toothbrush, the camera phone has really helped democratize the ability to tell a powerful story through images. “We all have cameras in our mobile phones and taking a photo of something is far more efficient than typing a sentence about it. Sharing that image online is not only easier – it’s automatic. Your friends and family immediately see the concept or story that you have created,” says Ratcliff.

What this means for the future

Now that millions of people not only have the ability to tell stories through the use of camera phones and other inexpensive photography tools, but also we now have unprecedented access to view these stories. This “new visual literacy that we’re adopting is fundamentally changing communication,” writes Ratcliff. Just look today at your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds. They have gone from being full of text status updates to that of images today. “Our streams become more about imagery than words” points out Ratcliff. Because of this new fascination with images, Ratcliff believes it will allow us all to evolve a new sense of visual literacy. He believes that it is because “Imagery is inherently a more ‘human’ way to communicate…Not only are there universal facial expressions of emotions, but all cultures are connected through human connection.”

Billions of people now have a totally new way to communicate. We’re on the brink of developing a new visual literacy, which is exciting. This visual literacy is something that is form and we are able to be a part of it, contribute to it, and affect it. We’re now able to express our ideas, thoughts, and feelings effortlessly through borders, cultures, and time.