As I continue to work on producing a book about my practice-led research and its findings, I decided to review the Research Questions, Aim and Objectives and how I have met the challenges I set.
RQ1 – Are there viable strategies for opening awareness of the noumenal within the subjects of my photographic practice.
While Kant and Harman both recognised the existence of the noumenal or the essence of an object, they were equally clear that it was untouchable and only accessible through allusion or inference. My challenge was to find ways, through my practice, that would shed light on how I could possibilise allure within the image. Were there ways in which the camera as a unique instrument might assist me in my aim and was I, as a photographer able to reveal the drivers of my practice and elicit the strategies that might allow me to gain a glimpse of Being through non-conscious awareness?
Through my photographic practice, I have developed evaluated and tested several strategies for opening awareness of the noumena in objects. I began with a focus on three strategies: metaphor, reduction, and fracture in my image-making and also tested methods of the activation of awareness and the attenuation of my conscious mind. These experiments in the field and my reflection on the practice and approach of other artists led me to articulate the Ten-Signifier Onion Diagram which identified the primary drivers of my practice. I intended through an intensive period of practice to “possibilise” the realisation of essence, which I more latterly termed allure, at the moment of capture and in my images. The Ten Signifiers can be considered individually and also through the connections and entanglement of the objects of my attention. Through deep practice, I continually develop my abilities to operate the camera and use these signifiers intuitively.
RQ2 – Through the conjunction of the personal with photographic praxis, how can we gain a deeper insight into the entangled nature of our Being?
At the beginning of my photographic journey, I conceived of my search for Being aware of Being as an individual pursuit and individual in nature. In this regard, I was influenced through Harman, by Heidegger’s concept of Dasein, although I had subscribed to Harman’s flat ontology rather than Heidegger’s hierarchical sense of Being. My early connections with the lone silver birch tree were characterised by my Being aware of another – an individual-to-individual relationship. As my practice-led research gathered momentum, a recursive process of research emerged and through the consideration and reflection on ontology, epistemology, methodology and method my understanding of Being in the field was not an individual connection but one that was deeply entangled. This I refer to as the paradox of Being and first manifested in my images in the Among Trees Case Study where I had gained a sense of interconnectedness and interiority within myself and with a collective of trees.
To develop a photographic praxis for uncovering the ephemeral reality of “Being” beyond the immediate representation of visual presence.
The use of the word praxis is important in my research aim. It reflects the sense that outcomes emerged as the result of practice-led research and that those insights, in turn, formed a body of learning, a novel photographic practice, beyond individual revelations or lessons. My approach in developing this body of learning is represented through a series of primary visual heuristics including the Recursive Loop-A Practice-Led Research Model, the BAR Diagram, the Ten-Signifier Onion Diagram and an extension of Harman’s Fourfold Model as well as others that drill down into the micro aspects of my practice and research.
RO1 – To produce a photographic portfolio capturing the essence of Skye.
I have generated a substantial body of photographic work at several locations on Skye, featuring a diverse range of subjects that capture its essence and demonstrate allure in the resultant images. I have used my photographic practice as a medium to experiment with different strategies for accessing a non-conscious state and for possibilising and capturing a glimpse of reality in my images. It should be noted that my photographic portfolio includes the images in my thesis, my Critical Research Journal (CRJ) and Handmade Artist’s Book where they, along with my writing, are used to develop my exegesis. The images are used to evidence, contextualise, and explain my research and provide, an illustration of the imagery I consider possessing allure (or the essence).
RO2 – To contextualise the portfolio through the ontology of Speculative Realism.
Speculative Realism, and Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology in particular, have provided me with a new perspective and way of looking at the world without hierarchy or distinction between human and non-humankind. OOO has also provided me with a philosophical touchstone for my practice and the basis for a novel practice of Object-Oriented Photography (paper) which focuses on a world beyond sensory perception and one that alludes to the noumenal. OOP provides a path to extend beyond the subject-centred approach for those who choose to take it.
Many hours of research in the field and at my desk provided me with the insight that rather than achieving essence in the relationship between the Real Object and its Real Qualities as Harman had suggested, my route to allure was through Harman’s eidos, the relationship between the Sensory Object and its Real Qualities. This realisation provided me with the answer to the tension unresolved in Harman’s work of how objects ‘touch without touching’ through the weakly defined concept of ‘vicarious causation’. Furthermore, allure was not a property borne out of conscious intent at the point of capture but rather one enabled by the unique properties of the camera, combined with a state of intuitive awareness leading to the activation of the shutter. A non-conscious moment that the photographer might not recall or recognise, but one which gives rise to an image whose allure lays bare real qualities of the subject hitherto withdrawn from visual perception.
RO3 – To develop a practice-led method for uncovering the contextual and personal drivers of my practice.
My research has led me to articulate, develop and understand better, the depth and breadth of my photographic practice. The dimensions of my practice have been extended to a cross-media approach that includes walking, writing, and occasional drawing, as a means of reflecting on my thoughts and connections that I have developed through practice-led research. The Onion Diagram is the major output of my research and the outcome of the exegesis contained in my thesis. The articulation and conception of the Onion Diagram has provided substantial insights into the drivers of my practice. It also provides the potential for the extension of this approach to help others articulate their own Onion Diagram and a deeper understanding of their practice.
RO4 – To encourage public awareness of the application of the aesthetic insights of Speculative Realism through photography.
This blog, my CRJ, is the primary vehicle for a wider engagement with my research. I publish high-quality, informed, and referenced posts regularly and the archive provides a historic development of my thinking and practice. In addition, I have presented my research to other research students at Dundee and other institutions, as well as presenting my work to camera clubs across the UK. A joint paper with Professor Bob Ryan was published in Philosophy of Photography in 2022.
I will extend this writing in the next few days to write about my contribution to knowledge and practice.