I have been reflecting further on Robin Nelson’s book Practice as Research in the Arts (2013) and thinking how I can refine his model to suit my philosophy, ontology, academic research and photographic practice.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Nelson’s model revolves around Know How, Know What and Know That.

 I began by considering how I will acquire knowledge and came up with three different ways in which I will develop my thinking and practice:

  • Knowing through Being – which includes strategies for the learning process including the use of metaphor, reduction, attenuation, activation and fracture in my practice
  • Knowing through Action – which includes general academic activities and experimentation in the field using intentional and experimental techniques
  • Knowing through Reflection – combining, integrating and consolidating the outcomes and learning through an active process of reflection (reflected knowledge)

 A method is how we come to know about things (epistemological).  Ontology precedes epistemology, and how we gain knowledge is framed by our ontology.  My ontology says that there is a fundamental distinction between essence and presence, and that between essence and presence there is both experiential and epistemic loss.

Experiential loss means the qualities we experience (sensory qualities (SQ)) are a presentation to us of underlying real qualities (RQ) which are both actual and potential within any given object.  What this means is that we can never fully experience any given object and that any experience we have will at best only represent a glimpse of the real qualities of the object.

Epistemic loss means that whenever we seek knowledge of an object, what we perceive are only aspects of it.   The experience of epistemic loss is represented for Kant and to many who followed him, as an unpassable barrier between the phenomenology of presence and the noumena of being – the ultimate reality possessed by all things.

However, we can become aware of being even though we can never fully experience it, and this awareness of being is opened up to us through both strategies for being and strategies for action.  Strategies for being involve a discipline for the opening up of awareness through the attenuation of conscious activity or, conversely, the affective activation of non-conscious states.  Hints of strategies for action (Ryan 2019) appear in the writings of Heidegger (fracture), Ortega (metaphor) and reduction (Husserl).  Although all action within the world makes it present to us, the application of both strategies for being and strategies for action open possibilities of gaining ephemeral glimpses of the essence, which is the defining nature of being.

Reflection is the all-important process for bringing together – or conjugating – the incommensurable states of being and presence.  Through systematic reflection, we can reflect (R/B) upon the strategies for being, and also the strategies for action (R/A). Through the conjunction of our reflective processes (R/B/A) being becomes revealed to us and so my reflective practice in its various outputs seeks to open my and my viewers vision to the essential reality that subsists within the subject of my photography.

Figure 1 Research Method Model

Moving onto the practicalities of conducting my research, notwithstanding the current limitations because of full lockdown, the model below shows in diagrammatic form what a week-by-week cycle might look like and how the approach encourages systematic reflection, for me, through a series of stages and methods:

Figure 2 Cycle of Method and Learning (Ryan and Price 2020)

As I move into Semester 2 of my studies, I feel that I have made some progress in being clearer about my research methodology and methods and have a clear practical plan and model that will deliver the systematic and critical reflection required in a research-based PhD.



 Nelson, R. (2013). Practice as Research in the Arts:  Principles, Protocols, Pedagogies, Resistances. London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Ryan, R. and A. B. J. Price (2020). Object Oriented Photography – a Speculative Essay on the Photography of Essence.

Ryan, R. J. (2019). Intuition, Expertise and Judgement in the Assessment and Capture of Photographic Images. School of Business and the School of Art. Cheltenham, University of Gloucestershire. PhD.



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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