This is the first Critical Reflection and Review of Practice that I have written since May.  Over the last few months, I grappled with bringing my theory and practice together to produce a coherent and convincing narrative for my PhD upgrade and beyond.  But now I have returned to my practice, using the methodology and methods discussed in my Upgrade Document and returning to many of the locations I visited during my first year.

This Critical Reflection and Review of Practice is based on the methodology of the Star Diagram (Exhibit 3) and the methods of the Onion Diagram.

Exhibit 3 from Upgrade Document – September 2021 – Strategies for approaching the essence by altering states of awareness through activation or attenuation, and way of seeing through metaphor, reduction and fracturing (adapted from Ryan (2019) p43)

Exhibit 13 from Upgrade Document – 10 Signifier Model – Alison Price, June 2021

The strategy uppermost in my mind during this period of practice is metaphor with a smattering of reduction thrown in (through the use of slow shutter speeds and intentional camera movement).  In terms of the signifiers that I use in search of the essence I focus on developing my camera skills, spatial persistence and exteroception.  My thoughts in the field are, as always, recorded in my journal.

Film Teaser Shot 6 – Gemma Wearing, October 2019

Noumenal Awareness through Reflections

One of the moments of insight this week has been the role of reflections in my image making.  While I have spent many hours at Loch Cill Chriosd photographing the reflections of the reeds, I have always avoided the cliche of including both the object and a complete version of that object in the water below.  One morning this week at Loch Dubha, I began to photograph the reflections of trees rather than the object itself.  On my return to processing the images, I began playing with cropping and reducing the amount of the object in the image above the water to about 25%.  I realised that the reflections, especially when there is movement in the water, allude to the dynamic nature of the tree and encourage the viewer to focus on its noumenal rather than physical dimensions.  Reflections are nature reflecting nature and offer a glimpse of being.

Metaphor 19 – Alison Price, October 2021

Metaphor 21 – Alison Price, October 2021

Spatial Persistence

After spending five days in the same location, and one that I have visited many times before, I have become aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of this approach.  Although there are photographers, such as Joe Cornish and Jem Southam, that do return to the same place time after time, the repetition can extend over large areas rather than necessarily visiting local spots, and generally engages with presence rather than being.  I wrote in my journal that having the option to return another day, or tomorrow, the expectations and pressures of having one chance to get the shot diminish.  Having spent many years capturing wildlife on this basis, I now welcome the less frantic image making in contrast to that I have done in the past.  However, spatial persistence also has its drawbacks.  There can be an overwhelming sense that there is nothing new to capture and boredom can set in.  But, I have found that these moments are often when a new idea or approach is born – such as the images above.  However, knowledge and familiarity can also lead to a lack of attention to the scene, a sense of deja vu.  In fact, when you might think that you have taken the same image many times before, the changes in the seasons and the development of practice means that this is rarely the case.  Spatial persistence, in my experience, also enables what Ryan (2019) terms ‘deep practice’ – an intense and focused period of practice to gain intuitive camera skills.

Practical Reflections

The walk to my chosen location this week has allowed me to reflect on both the theory and practice I am engaging with and often allows me to join the dots.  There are a couple of practical outcomes I have considered as I wander through the mountains.  First, I have been thinking about whether to produce a grid which has the methodological strategies I am using on the vertical side of the matrix and the 10 signifiers that provide the potential for accessing essence on the horizontal.  To what end?  I could take a grid out for each period of practice to allow me to record those strategies and signifiers at play on a particular shoot.  It may keep me focused and it may also allow me to record the combinations that produce successful images.  For example, it may be that I combine attenuation and metaphor from the strategies and perhaps interoception from the Onion Diagram.  

I have not produced any Emotigrams this week but plan to do at least one for future practice periods.  I have also been thinking about how I might record my Emotigrams by using technology such as a Wacom tablet, rather than a pen and paper.

And finally, I have been mulling over the tension I feel between presenting work as an academic exercise and producing images to exhibit for commercial purposes.  Are the two approaches compatible?  I note it here, to come back to in future posts.


Ryan, R.J. (2019).  Intuition, Expertise and Judgement in the Assessment of Photographic Images.  School of Business and the School of Art. Cheltenham, University of Gloucestershire.  PhD: 492.



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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