The development of the exegesis in my thesis is the result of systematic and repetitive practice recorded and reflected upon in my Critical Research Journal in daily posts and through the images I produce and discuss. Here is an early example of a CRJ post in November 2020:
“I pull on my coat that is still wet from yesterday and leave home before sunrise. It is almost light as I approach Loch Cill Chriosd. I decide to drive on and take a look at the lone tree I have photographed before. I am greeted by a flock of sheep waiting for their morning feed and as I climb up to the tree they follow and form a circle around me. It is raining now, and I decide to change lens to a 50mm lens. I grab a shot quickly using a small amount of intentional camera movement before working with multiple exposure. The tree has a backdrop of the Black Cuillin that are covered in thick cloud however, the colours of the landscape are more vibrant than yesterday. Towards the end of my time with the tree a pink tinge appears in the sky and bathes the tree in a warm glow.”
At the end of the same week, I wrote about the insights and revelations of my experiments in essence as follows:
The revelation this week relates to the research method I have used hitherto and is significant for my future practice. I believe I have identified a fundamental flaw in my practice to date.
Although it sounds obvious, I have reduced and sought to control the circumstances and conditions when I might glimpse the ephemeral hiddenness of Skye. My practice has been to seek out times when in my opinion I have ‘good’ light or optimum conditions. This would normally mean a changeable day when the weather conditions include sun, rain, snow and wind. While the conditions might be right for me, they might not represent a time when I am most likely to witness the revealing of Skye. Perhaps it is the case, that when more people are looking, it is less likely to occur – certainly Heidegger believed that the more you look the less likely that being will be glimpsed. And maybe, when Skye produces the most extreme and challenging weather conditions not only is this the essence of an Island I wish to depict, but also just the time when my chance of capturing a glimpse is most likely.”
It is when moments of insight like this are revealed, considered and recorded, that my journaling habit provides a contemporaneous record of my learning and thinking at that time, and over the period of my PhD these posts build a reliable and comprehensive record of the development in my thinking and the images I produce. It occurs to me as I develop my writing that hitherto my subject commitment in relation to the silver birch has been mechanical and coincidental rather than systematic, experimental and reflective. This has led to a superficial understanding rather than a deep knowledge and awareness that is intuitive rather than intentional and conscious. My practice was changing and rather than working in forests or the loch my work with the tree was revealing variety in the subject, through positioning, seeing, attending and experiencing different weather and climate. This continual engagement with the subject led me to become aware of its continual state of change with its environment and with me. My early work was formative in this respect but also provided me with an experience of Being aware of Being from which I was able to learn and develop my non-conscious awareness and with it enter a zonal flow where conscious practice was lost to a less intentional state.
Fast forward over two years and the output of my research is formed as the Ten-Signifier Onion Diagram with the drivers of my practice refined and developed through systematic and regular practice. As my skills grew, and my intuitive grasp of the signifiers emerged, my ability to enter zonal flow along with an awareness of perceptive and dynamic awareness solidified my practice. I return to the tree on a sparkling October day with the recognition that this silver birch is an ontological and physical anchor in my photographic work. While it does not have the sense of passion, I have for Loch Cill Chriosd, it is nonetheless a place where I feel familiar, whose environment I understand and its Being I have glimpsed. And the images below demonstrate that ontological entanglement that I call allure. They draw the viewer when the viewer shares and recognises a glimpse of Being that is both singular and plural.
The light is crystal clear, and the autumnal leaves of the birch are glowing like embers under deep blue skies. I had visited the tree a couple of days earlier and vowed to return to anticipate with the tree the season of decay that is now just around the corner. From August onwards the days shorten quickly on Skye, and the nights become colder and darker. It can also be extremely wet as the seasons change from summer to autumn, but dry days have returned at least for today! As soon as I set up my camera, I become engrossed in my practice.
These images of the lone silver birch tree provides different insights – multiple readings. The double exposures provide a sense of the gentle movement of the tree canopy on a fair-weather day in autumn, as the silver birch strains to hold onto its remaining leaves. The clouds overhead are wispy and delicate. There is a hint of the fragility of the trunk and its form, clearly shaped by the weather conditions in harsher times that are just around the corner. The image alludes to the approaching winter, the season of decay and death when the remaining leaves will be lost, and a time of dormancy will prevail. Through the use of double exposure techniques, the images can allude to winter in the background – shadows and the greyness of winter.
And yet the silver birch will stand tall against the vagaries of the winter weather in the Cuillin. A trace of the tree’s Being is uncovered through these multiple readings.
To be continued . . .