Photography – the Philosophical Dimension
What is Derrida Saying to Us?
Thought Piece 7 – Searching for the Unnameable Glimmer
Thought Piece 8 – More Musings on the Unnameable Glimmer
To respond to the self-posed question above, I believe my photography has developed significantly during my PhD. At the end of my MA, I was dissatisfied with phenomenology and capturing my experience of the landscape (see Turning my Back on Phenomenology https://www.wildreflections.photography/contextual-research/turning-my-back-on-phenomenology-week-24). I wanted to capture a hint of the reality of the natural world and focus on objects within it. While initially, I focused on single objects and the singular aspect of their Being, as my practice developed, I began to reveal the connections between objects and the Entanglement of Being. And while Harman’s preference for presence served me well and guided me through making sense of my photographic efforts, looking back it was ultimately Jacques Derrida that provided me with the means to develop the Ten-Signifier Onion Diagram and capture traces of Being in my work. My practice and research have come full circle – I started my practice by trying to capture a glimpse of the unnameable glimmer, I deconstructed my work in true Derridean style into ten signifiers, and then sought to reconstruct my findings through a series of images that capture the hidden reality behind presence. As my thinking moves on from my PhD, it seems that in hindsight Derrida had a greater influence than the Speculative Realism of Graham Harman.
Derrida’s strategy of deconstruction involved a close reading of text and words. Indeed, in Of Grammatology, (Derrida 1967) he spent over one hundred pages considering “pharmacology” looking for alternative views and alternative significations. And a process akin to the subject persistence of my practice, captured in a layer of the Onion Diagram. In my view, my practice is a means of reading the landscape and rather than using words as my starting point, I use the visual prompt of what I see. I use objects and a reductive view of the natural world to deconstruct the land in front of me. I break it into component parts, I fracture it – for example, I fracture the lone silver birch tree, capturing it in different seasons, light, and weather conditions, and observe how its essence responds under the ever-changing microclimate of the Black Cuillin. Through this process of fracture in my practice, the glimmer, that Derrida speaks of, emerges through a close and intense viewing of my work. In Derrida’s terms, our world is not hidden from view by presence as Harman believes, but rather by a veil of words that in turn defer or signify to a further set of synonymous words.
One way of describing my practice then is to consider it as a process of fracture. This approach also relates to Ryan’s Star Diagram (2019) and the terms and strategies he proposes for approaching essence that I referred to in my early practice. Rather than take an approach of standing back and viewing the scene or the landscape as a whole I choose to engage in a close reading of the subject of my photography. In doing this, I hope to provide the viewers of my work with that closer reading too. The accompanying handmade Artist’s Book, Traces of Being, which is part of my PhD submission, seeks to transport the viewer to an alternative and intense view of the natural world that I see and experience.
Derrida, J. (1967). Of Grammatology. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.
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.