I call it a “basic” construct but perhaps foundational is a better way of describing it, rather like the “camera skills” construct alongside it. Without an understanding and exploration of these foundational constructs through academic thought and photographic practice, there is no basis on which to develop, refine and build connections with the more complex constructs closer to the centre of the onion.
The definition of analogous is ‘similar’, ‘akin to’ or ‘comparable with’, and analogous reasoning provides a way of clarifying the nature of something by comparing it with something else. During my MA Photography, and in an effort to avoid being overwhelmed by sensory perception on the beautiful Isle of Skye, I turned to aspects of nature within the landscape to act as metaphors for the island more generally. I focused on lone trees, fragile reeds, or the black basalt Cuillins – to allude to the climate, the power of nature and the tenuous relationship between man and nature. I wanted to offer something more than a representation, perhaps an ephemeral moment in an ever-changing landscape or a glimpse of the essence of an Island that most people never see.
This approach, one of the methodological strategies which I have developed during my PhD, is metaphor. And turning back to definitions again, metaphor is when a word or phrase is applied or used in connection with something else that is not literally applicable but nonetheless helps to explain an idea through comparison. And, of course, metaphor is used extensively in poetry and literature for example as well as being used by composers, painters and photographers, to allow a subject or concept to become more accessible or relatable to the audience or viewer. Simile is similar to metaphor but uses the word ‘like’ explicitly in the comparison.
In Object-Oriented Photography, metaphor is a powerful strategy for alluding to, or accessing, the essence of self and subject. For example, the climate of Skye is fundamental to its existence, but it is not possible to photograph climate. However, it is possible to photograph a lone tree on a rocky outcrop straining to stay rooted to the ground in a gale, it is possible to compare the delicate silver birch to the threatening black and intimidating Cuillin behind. Similarly, it is possible to photograph the fragile stems of the reeds on Loch Cill Chriosd that emerge through the surface of the water each spring and die back to survive the unforgiving winters. It is possible to photograph a tiny white house nestled deep in the heart of the Black Cuillin.
More generally, my PhD has involved a process of analogous reasoning. For example, in Year 1, I engaged in a review of contemporary practice. In particular, I read widely on the philosophical underpinning of my practice and engaged in a process of literature priming by reading nature prose and poetry. Perhaps the greatest revelation was re-reading The Living Mountain (1977) and finding many examples of references to being aware of being in the Cairngorms and evidence through her writing of Shepherd’s skill in many of the constructs in the Onion Diagram such as interoception and exteroception. I researched widely on the practice of not only writers and photographers, but also artists, sculptors, filmmakers and sound recordists and investigated the visual representation of Skye through archive material.
I also find that I am joining the dots on a life of different interests where comparisons can be drawn. For example, I have been reading Shackleton, the most recent biography of the great man, and as I read about his life and some of his exploits beyond the Endurance expedition, connections begin to form. He developed a set of basic skills required of polar explorers by learning from experience in the merchant navy and in previous trips to Antarctica. He engaged in subject persistence and spatial persistence and certainly needed skills in interoception and exteroception to survive in the harshest of climates. And he needed to deploy dynamic and zonal awareness to solve the ongoing challenges presented to him as captain of the ship and leader of men. Analogous reasoning is an ongoing process in my PhD, both in the academic research and the development of my practice towards Object-Oriented Photography.
Fiennes, R. (2021). Shackleton A Biography. London, Michael Joseph.