Possibilising the Photographic Moment - Insights of Photographic Practice for Speculative Realism

  • Alison Beverley Jayne Price

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

In this thesis, I present a discussion and evaluation of a programme of practice-led research that seeks to answer two questions: what strategies can be developed to enable the capture of the noumena within a photographic subject and, second, through attention to both personal and photographic praxis can I offer an insight into the entanglement of Being? In exploring these questions, I have drawn upon various contextual sources including: Nan Shepherd, Claude Monet, Patricia Townsend, Merlin Sheldrake, Sandra Bartocha, Ori Gersht and, from an ontological perspective, Graham Harman working within the Speculative Realist tradition. Harman’s Quadruple Object and his concepts of “essence”, “eidos”, and “allure” have emerged as useful tools in “possibilising” the momentary revelation of the Being of Skye – the chosen photographic location for this research. This thesis argues that by using the still camera’s capability to reduce space and freeze time, it is possible, through the photographic image, to glimpse reality inaccessible to the human eye. This “glimpse”, to use Derrida’s (1967) term, or “allure” as articulated by Harman (2012), can be recognised by the viewer as they dwell in the image and transcend the sensory phenomena of visual experience in an ephemeral moment of awareness. The research outcomes presented demonstrate the power of aesthetics in closing the gap between the logic of philosophical discourse and the world of lived experience, where Being is revealed as the reality that lies beyond visual representation. The research method adopted in this research follows a “Recursive Loop” grounded in practice, which drives a circular, reflective process flowing through ontology, epistemology, methodology and the enhancement of method. Amplified by the lessons of the “Quiet Photographer” (Badger, 2010), this method personalises and gives authenticity to the practice presented in this thesis. Experience in the field strongly supports the proposition that only through the camera can we become aware that our subject is both singular in Being but deeply plural in its reality. In so doing this research supports Harman’s ‘flat ontology’, but suggests that Being subsists not within the object, but within entangled states, which mediate change and drive causation. This thesis introduces a novel model for developing practice summarised as a visual heuristic: the “Ten-Signifier Shutter Diagram”. I argue and conclude that the Shutter Diagram can offer a framework for other practitioners who embark on a personal journey from Subject-Oriented to Object-Oriented Photography. My practice-led research is evidenced and demonstrated through this thesis, a handmade Artist’s Book, and a Critical Research Journal presented as a blog (https://www. wildreflections.photography/blog).
Date of Award2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPernille Spence (Supervisor) & Judit Bodor (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Photography
  • allure
  • realism
  • entanglement

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