The Little House in the Cuillin – Alison Price, March 2016

Throughout the practice-led research for my PhD, I have been encouraged in my endeavours to possibilise allure by the image above. In hindsight, I consider it to be my first encounter with something akin to Object-Oriented Photography.  It was an image initially successful for its metaphor and allusion to the tenuous balance between man and nature however through constant referral and reflection during my PhD it became a manifestation of the deep entanglement of objects in nature – not just physical but the entanglement of Being that I was not aware of at the moment of capture. This intense entanglement was a feeling that matured over time, its impact was not immediate it emerged over the minutes, hours, and days as I gazed at it, over and over.  The image is of a famous landmark on Skye located in the Black Cuillin range.  Bla Bhein, an outlier of the range, stands proudly over Loch Slapin.  Although many images have been taken at the spot where I was standing, few recognise it because of the choices made about framing and perspective.  First, I decided to take the image in portrait format to emphasise the basalt rock’s strength and jaggedness, and second, I removed the over-powering horizontal pull of Loch Slapin, which for me was too dominant for the narrative I had chosen. (In hindsight it became clear that the removal of the loch also opens up the strength of allure in the image).  I also had a sense of my wish to emphasise the frailty of mankind, and the little white house in particular, and the constant threat that nature poses on this hostile Island.

In many ways, this image, although taken before I was able to verbalise or had even conceived of Object-Oriented Photography, it does encapsulate what I am now seeking to achieve explicitly, albeit non-consciously, in my photographic practice.  While the eyes immediately objectify the Little White House in the Cuillin, as one dwells, other aspects of reality emerge into awareness.  This is what I believe Harman considers to be allure.  The image becomes, to coin a phrase, “more than the sum of its parts”.  One might ask, why is the little house right at the bottom of the image, almost slipping out of the frame?  I recall the positioning decision I made at the time was borne out of several considerations.  First, two practical issues: the loch is close to the little house, and I had decided to remove this for the reasons above; second, I wanted to capture the full height of the mountain and give space for the clouds above; but more importantly, I wanted to emphasise the vulnerability of the house and the threat that the mountain poses daily.  The image was inevitably going to be presented as black and white, the blackness and jagged rock of the mountain adding to its menace, the white snow and ice a constant threat and the white house standing out from the basalt and gabbro, exposed and vulnerable.    The image tells a tale of intimate connectivity, how man and nature are entangled, and how the white house is linked to the outside world.  The power lines and tracks appear as faint, almost indistinct and tenuous links – traces of the world outside.  The connectivity to which I refer is more than a physical relationship, it is an entanglement of Being.

In my experience of sharing this image, I have been aware of how some viewers appear to enter a zone and meditate on its many messages, seeing more than simply the presentation of objects – the house, the Cuillin, clouds, waterfalls, and trees.  It shares a sense of entanglement that is more than the sum of its parts.  They recognise that the camera is signifying a wide range of points of entanglement – an awareness shared also by me as the photographer and the natural environment I captured.  On the other hand, some viewers, maybe taking a more critical and conscious approach, will not connect with the entanglement within the image.  However, for me, as I pressed the shutter, the camera captured the various nodes of connectivity.

Object-Oriented Photography exposes and brings to awareness these higher-order relationships that I call entanglement.  The moment is short and ephemeral, transitory, and vaporises quickly.  However, the image itself carries with it a trace of the viewer.  It acquires properties of recognition and reputation and additional levels of meaning, associations and power, for the many who have viewed it and as a result its reality changes.

In hindsight, it is clear to me that the production of this image marks the practice point of my speculative turn, although it took three more years, and an MA and a PhD journey to realise it!  It also helps to situate my research over the last three years in the context of my ongoing practice journey.

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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