From October I shall be pursuing my academic studies and developing my photographic practice towards a PhD in Photography. I have decided to accept the offer made by Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD), part of the University of Dundee. The application process has been long as they considered my PhD Proposal and then searched for the perfect supervisory team. It has been a nervous wait for news but I am pleased that they have taken a great deal of care in finding the right people with the right skills and knowledge to support me on my PhD journey.
The working title for my PhD is:
The Ontology of the Photographic Moment – an Exploration of the Implications of Speculative Realism for Photographic Practice
I introduced my work in the Proposal as follows:
“Inspired by insights gained during my MA (Photography) Final Major Project on The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye I would like to continue my exploration of the ontology of my photographic practice through an engagement with the philosophy of being, and how I might access the ‘being’ of the Isle of Skye. My practice lies in both my creative work as a photographer on Skye and in my writing, communicating to a growing body of followers and readers, through my blog.
Skye is one of the most spectacular areas of Scotland, where stunning views, turbulent climate, fragile natural environment and distinctive culture have attracted visitors from all over the world. The phenomena of Skye provides a powerful and emotional experience for its many visitors, but for many who know the Island its development as Scotland’s second most visited destination has left them with a profound sense of loss. The reception of my images by the Islanders expresses a sense of healing as they see, through the visual fragments of space and time they represent, a connection to the real essence of their home.”
And the context of my research is as follows:
“The camera, through the photograph, has a unique capability of capturing a moment in time that is gone as soon as the shutter is pressed. The image is removed from our memory, as life and our experiences move on. In doing this, the camera reduces the Kantian notions of space and time – both through framing and reducing three dimensions to two and, by capturing a moment in the dynamic flux of time. In contrast with other creative arts, I argue that photography is unique in its moment of capture having the potential to be a product of non-conscious, intuitive judgement as well as conscious intent, whereas painting, sculpture and architecture, for example, all depend upon a high degree of conscious intermediation between subject and the chosen output media.
My research will seek to support this thesis through an exploration of different ontological approaches to accessing and capturing reality with particular focus upon Speculative Realism. The speculative realist movement has placed itself firmly against the transcendental idealism of post Kantian philosophy and believes that philosophy can speak of a world of infinite diversity and ontological equivalence rather than speaking in a language where reality subsists solely in the relationships between mind and world. My research will consider, amongst others, the following questions. Using myself as a case study of one, is it possible for the photographer to access reality and the essence of objects in their practice? What approaches might allow the photographer to go behind the ‘veil of presence’ and catch a glimpse of the real object – Kant’s “noumena”, Heidegger’s “being”, Harman’s “real” object, or Ortega’s “‘I’-ness”.”
I will continue to record my PhD journey in this Critical Research Journal using it to discuss my readings, share images in the development of my photographic practice, consider other photographers’ work and its relevance to my own practice and record my own reflections on the highs and lows of working at doctoral level.