I have been reading an article about Autoethnography by David Butz and Kathryn Besio which my supervisor suggested might be helpful to me in thinking about the research methods for my PhD. According to Reed-Danahay (1997) autoethnography is:

“a form of self-narrative that places the self within a social context.”

 Butz and Besio argue that all types of autoethnography dissolve the boundary between authors and objects of representation as the author and object become part of what is being studied. As I ploughed through the article I was finding it hard going until I found more about the merging between the boundary of author and object. They argue that autoethnography can be described as reflexive or narrative ethnography, where the researcher becomes an aspect of what they are signifying. So there is a significant shift from the researcher or the research being the signifier, to being the object of signification.

For me, signification in my photographic practice always ends in the being – and the being is me, as the photographer. As Freeman Patterson (1977: 11) says the camera looks both ways – but for me the camera not only looks to the object and the photographer but also to the viewer.

Object-oriented photography is when we recognise that through the camera and its unique qualities (in its ability to offer a glance at the being of the subject and the being of the photographer) which has the potential to be revealed to the viewer who, in turn, is open to the ‘being – signification’ of the image. So, I am introducing a new term in the linguistics of the image which I term ‘being–significations.’ There is no guarantee in any photographic moment that being signification will occur and therefore necessarily, nor in the eyes of the viewer. The concept of ‘being signification’ rests in object-oriented ontology and the openness of the real object to visual perception, when time is disrupted and the reduction of space occurs, with aesthetic effect. In my view, being signification has the power to transform the awareness of the viewer from that of the ordinary to the extraordinary nature of being. As we look into the eyes of Don McCullin’s Shell Shocked Marine, we see the suffering and the trauma of the subject, the overpowering empathy and commitment of the photographer, and within ourselves we are brought face to face with our own reaction to trauma and shock.



 BUTZ, David. 2009. Autoethnography. Geography Compass 3/5 (2009). Blackwell Publishing.

PATTERSON, Freeman. 1977. Photography for the Joy of It. Toronto: Van Nostrand Reinhold Ltd.

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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