In the final post in the series about the ‘Star Diagram’, developed in Ryan (2019) and refined in a joint paper (Ryan 2021), I will consider the strategies of activation and attenuation.

For me, these strategies are a little different to Metaphor, Fracture and Reduction that I wrote about in earlier posts, as they refer to strategies that change the state of mind in some way.  Activation, which refers to increasing emotional state to encourage the revelation of being, or the ability to recognise being, both at the point of capture and in post-processing, through the playing of music for example.  By returning to the same music in post-processing as that played at the moment of capture, I would suggest that the accompanying visual outcome is easier to recall.  This method relies upon the emotional tags recorded in archival memory that I will return to in later posts.

I have used this method on occasion, particularly in a shoot at Niagara Falls however, I have yet to use it in a controlled way in my practice during my PhD.  This is partly because I did not want to introduce too many variables in my practice in Year 1 as I got to grips with other changes in process and method in my work, and second because I was uncertain as to whether the use of music might change or alter my feelings about the scene and thus the images that I take – and whether that matters or not.  Music is such a strong emotive medium that I need to be convinced that this approach will influence my work in a way which is consistent with my research aims and objectives.  I know for my part, and I am sure for many others, that certain music, has the ability to move me, particularly the patriotic melodies of Edward Elgar or Anton Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor.  But will this transfer different emotions into my image making?  Does activation work and is it a positive or negative tool in helping to reveal the essence, either in the field or in assessing images for post-processing.  It is something I will experiment and test in Year 2.

Attenuation in general, refers to a reduction in something, and in my practice, it is consciousness.  In my terms, it refers to strategies that might calm the ‘chattering monkeys’ that reside in our heads and influence our daily lives.  The images, the social media, and the constant demands on our time through audio prompts and notifications.  This leads to us spending much of our waking time in a conscious state of mind.

In working to reveal essence, I would argue that it is often the case that we need to enter what might be called ‘creative flow’ where we leave the conscious world behind as we focus on subject and craft.  I find this a fascinating concept and one that I have experienced through being immersed in the world of the mountain gorilla, the orangutan or when interacting with the penguins of South Georgia.  However, I do find that I am also able to lose myself in the natural world of the Isle of Skye.

Others might call this type of practice mindfulness or meditation.  The experience is definitely ‘in the moment’ and it does involve total focus and concentration on the subject.  However, what is lost or attenuated for me, is the conscious control of the camera as my intuitive skills take over the technical decisions, and when I release the shutter.  I leave that to a non-conscious me!

The use of this strategy is also work in progress, and of course, by its very nature, it is difficult to evaluate or describe in experimental terms, because as soon as I return to a conscious state and lose the ‘flow’, the moment has been lost.

The process of thinking through the five strategies:  attenuation, activation, metaphor, reduction and fracture as a means to develop Object-Oriented Photography has been helpful as I near my last week of Year 1 of my PhD.  I am sure that I will find this thinking helpful as a starting point in developing my research into these strategies and using and evaluating them as part of my photographic practice



Ryan, R., Price, A B J (2021). Object Oriented Photography – a Speculative Essay on the Photography of Essence.

Ryan, R. J. (2019). Intuition, Expertise and Judgement in the Assessment of Photographic Images. School of Business and the School of Art. Cheltenham, University of Gloucestershire. PhD: 492.


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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