As I continue to prepare for my viva voce examination, this post is the eleventh in a series of questions I am thinking about in relation to the research-led practice I have conducted for my PhD.  My question is whether my use of visual heuristics to organise and present some of the key concepts and outputs of my work might lead me to the charge that I am a structuralist.  Such a charge might be held by post-structuralists such as Foucault, Barthes and Jacques Derrida who was never prepared to accept this description.  My response to the question as to whether I might be considered a structuralist would be that I am not.  As a visual artist, I have an overwhelming sensory preference for visual explanations and the term heuristic means a rule of thumb, an abstraction or simplification.

The drivers for producing heuristics such as the Onion Diagram are to simplify an idea or concept that might take more words to explain. I am seeking to reduce my thinking to a manageable number of ideas, and the process of creating the visual is a means to reflect, develop and refine my ideas. I believe this is particularly important for those pursuing practice-led research where the ideas and concepts are borne out of their own individual artistic pursuits.

The Ten-Signifier Onion Diagram

While some might call my Onion Diagram an attempt at creating structure in a complex world, and indeed a means to demonstrate power in some way, a criticism levied at structuralists, I would respond by saying that the ten drivers of my practice developed in the Onion Diagram are signifiers that are personal to me and my practice.  The use of the term signifiers leaves the reader with options to interpret or defer to other signifiers that might better serve the articulation of their practice.  The purpose of the heuristic is to seek to help others who might wish to follow a similar path of articulating their photographic drivers. The use of visual heuristics also serves to simplify and reduce the extent, level, and complexity of my ideas, or indeed those of others such as Graham Harman, to a manageable and comprehensible level.  Sketching them out visually helps me develop my thinking too.

Harman’s Fourfold Model extended in Ryan and Price (2022) to include the concepts of Epistemic and Experiential Loss

I do not like labels or any other attempt to categorise or compartmentalise my thinking or photographic work – it is individual.  A similar view was taken by Derrida who refused to accept the label of post-modernism or post-anything throughout his life.  Indeed, his son sought to clarify his position after his death by referring back to the fourteenth century and William of Ockham as his father’s inspiration and influence.


Ryan, R J & Price, A B J. (2022). Object-Oriented Photography – a Speculative Essay on the Photography of Essence.”  Philosophy of Photography 12: 129-147.

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.
Skip to content