As a consequence, my practice has taken a back seat for the past few months, but I intend to remedy that over the next nine months. Although visitors continue to travel to Skye until the end of October, their overwhelming presence will start to recede in mid-September. I am looking forward to the day when I do not need to share my photographic locations with others. . . However, this break with intense practice has allowed me to reflect on what I have achieved so far, identify gaps to be plugged with respect to my methods and experimentation in the field, and has allowed me to renew the excitement and expectation that I normally have when engaging in regular fieldwork.
Thesis writing has allowed me to reflect on how important reflection is in my practice, and how writing in my journal, writing blogs on my return from a day in the field and on a regular basis, builds a recursive loop of integration between my academic endeavours and my photography and demonstrates that my PhD is clearly practice-led. This recent enforced period of desk work has also led me to revisit how important walking is to the process of reflection on Being and Action, which is the focus of Chapter 4 of my thesis.
Having said all this, I have been able to absent myself from the desk on occasion and wind my way down the single-track road to Loch Cill Chriosd. My focus has been the transient and ephemeral water lilies that I felt compelled to capture because of their short season. They have provided me with a different subject for my work and enabled me to photograph the reeds, entwined with the water lilies, in their prolific and vigorous state. I have enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture these relatively small flower heads between the dense and dynamic reeds at this time of year. It has given me a different perspective on attempting to “glimpsing the unnameable glimmer” (Derrida 1967). Furthermore, I think I have been successful in capturing some stunning images, some of which I have already been able to print on thick, high-quality, textured paper to good effect. So, I finish my first week of image-making, over an extended period, keen to get back to the loch and ready to play with my camera.
I now have some images in the bag and can afford to experiment. This I began to do on Day 5 and while I only published one example of my efforts, I would like to try again next time.
In the past, I have had some success in using intentional camera movement and featuring the delicate and tender stems of the reeds.
And while the conditions are very different in the summer, when as I have already mentioned, the reeds rather overwhelm the water lilies, I would like to find a place where the vegetation is less vigorous and where I might capture a water lily amongst more sparse reeds. I think this will be a difficult challenge, but I am up for it. However, I cannot leave it too long as I am not sure how long the lilies will continue to flower, especially given the long spell of inclement weather since the flower heads emerged on the loch.
More generally, I feel I need to take more images in bad weather, and this is strange because I certainly do not shy away from a wet and windy day or freezing cold days – in fact I enjoy them. Perhaps it is more about the images I choose to show and talk about that comply with a good weather aesthetic. Or maybe I tend to neutralise the images in post-processing. This is something I need to bear in mind when I am shooting, processing, and writing about my practice.
I need to develop my reflective voice and drafting my thesis has exposed this weakness in my work. I need to learn to write in a more self-critical style and feel able to evaluate and write informatively about others too. In this regard, I will read, again, How to Write about Contemporary Art (Williams 2014) and also consider the approach taken in the Journal for Artistic Research (JAR). I also plan to evaluate in more detail, those writers whose style I admire – one recent example has been Merlin Sheldrake (2020).
On balance, I feel that my decision to preference thesis writing at an early stage, before the end of Year 2, has enabled me to take stock, evaluate strengths and weaknesses, and identify gaps in both my writing and practice that needs improvement, development, and enhancement. And that I plan to do throughout Year 3.
Derrida, J. (1967). Of Grammatology. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.
Sheldrake, M. (2020). Entangled Life – How Fungi make our Worlds, Change our Minds, and Shape our Futures. London, Random House.
Williams, G. (2014). How to Write about Contemporary Art. London, Thames & Hudson.