I have a long list of research topics derived from my own investigations, as well as comments and ideas suggested by my supervisors.  One of the broad topics that I have been working on for some time is positioning myself in contemporary art practice.  This sounds easy and enjoyable, but it has been causing me some consternation as I find it difficult to understand what exactly this means.

I have spent a great deal of time looking at other artists’ work including writers, filmmakers, sound artists, photographers and other visual artists and attend a number of presentations from current practising artists.   Although I can identify artists that consider philosophical issues in their photography (Patterson and Tal), photographers whose work reflects the powers of the camera to glimpse the world of reality as I describe it (Bartocha, van der Molen and Gersht) and some who inspire me from a technical perspective (Godwin, Brandt and McCullin), none of them explore photography in the way I am trying to do.  This leads me to a question:  if research is about discovery, in my case through practice, in what sense does locating myself in contemporary practice further that aim?

As readers of this Journal will know, I see my work as realising a philosophical principle through my photography in whatever genre I happen to be engaged.  I believe that if I achieve what I seek to do then it will be helpful not only to me but also to others.  My work is based on the idea from Kant, Heidegger, Latour, Bryant, Derrida, Harman and many others that there is a world of reality which lies behind that of representation.  This world, that is withdrawn from us also emerges when we do not look.  We can only catch a glimpse of that world – hence my use of the term ‘ephemeral’ not as a signifier of the world of reality but rather of our perception of it.

How does the camera help in this?  As Kant proposed we come to know about things through the use of two innate constructs of the mind: our understanding of space and of time.  We need these to make sense of the world and in this I believe that the still camera has a particular ontological status. It is the first human instrument which is able to take a presentation (as opposed to a representation) of the world and freeze it in a moment in time.  It is also a reductive instrument in that it removes a spatial dimension, and also allows us to remove other sensory inputs (colour, clarity, etc.) which, I would argue, makes it different from other means of visual representation, both in degree and in kind.

After discussing these concerns and questions with my supervisor I understand the value of developing my knowledge across the breadth of contemporary art practice at this stage.  I recognise that I should research widely and then gradually reduce down to those that I believe can inform my academic research and practice in a more significant way.  I am enjoying doing this and I am finding myself increasingly more able to identify aspects of other artists’ work that will inform, develop or inspire my own practice and the presentation of that practice.

Our conversation also touched on collaborations and the pros and cons of working with other skilled people to deliver or enhance my work.  I had been considering possible collaborations with filmmakers, sound artists and creative writers.  At this stage it is for me to reflect more on the opportunities of a collaborative approach and what it might contribute to the development and presentation of my work.

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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