As part of my preparation for starting my PhD in October, my supervisor suggested I have a look at Linda Candy’s CCS Report – Practice Based Research: A Guide. It is short and concise and very helpful in beginning to clarify the nature and focus of my PhD.

Candy begins by introducing the two types of practice related research: Practice-based and practice led. She goes on to explain that if a creative outcome forms the basis of the PhD’s contribution to knowledge then it is practice-based. While, if the research contributes to new understandings about practice then it is practice-led. As I start out on my journey and begin reading the paper, I find it difficult to be clear in my own mind which of the approaches is the basis for my work. I intend to produce a body of photographic work and possibly a book or a film but I also intend, through auto-ethnographic research methods, to examine and evaluate my practice through the ontology of speculative realism. I need to read more.

So let’s delve a little deeper into what Candy believes are the key aspects of practice-based research and practice-led research:

Practice-based Research

  • Gain new knowledge through a novel investigation of practice and its outcomes
  • Produce a written account of the significance of the work with direct reference to the artistic outcomes

Practice-led Research

  • Gain new knowledge about the nature of practice and its significance to future practice
  • Produce a written document without the need for accompanying artistic work
  • Action research focus an integral part of the methodology

I am still unsure about my own research and wonder whether the reviewers of my PhD Proposal had raised issues about this in their feedback. As far as my aims and objectives are concerned, they are currently as follows:

Research Aim

 Excerpt from PhD Proposal

To develop photographic strategies for uncovering the ephemeral reality of ‘being’ beyond the immediate, literal representation and visual ‘presence’ of Skye.

Research Objectives

Except from PhD Proposal 

  1. Generate a photographic portfolio capturing the essence of Skye
  2. Contextualise that portfolio through the ontology of speculative realism
  3. Through the development of ontologically based method uncover the contextual and personal drivers of my practice
  4. Develop, by both online and printed text and imagery, public awareness of the application of the aesthetic insights of speculative realism through photography

As I re-read the Research Context section of my PhD proposal I feel even more confused:

Research Context

Excerpt from my PhD Proposal:

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”.

Time for more reading:

The primary focus of Candy’s article is on practice-based research but she suggests that much of it can also inform practice led research. She distinguishes between the ‘research’ that many practitioners would claim they routinely do as part of their creative endeavours, by explaining that practice-based research contributes to a wider body of knowledge and is more generally applicable to practice rather than in relation to on-going project work (which she refers to as pure practice) – another useful distinction for me to grasp. There is also an expectation of conforming to academic standards of writing and research in accordance with PhD work. This aspect of the article I understand having spent my whole career working in universities but I need to read and reflect on this article more as I prepare to start my studies in October.



 CANDY, Linda. 2006. Practice Based Research: A Guide. CCS Report: 2006-v1.0 November. University of Technology, Sydney.

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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