“I am seeking to photograph a permanent, yet often withdrawn essence or sense of being in place (reality), rather than the presence of place (experience), through an engagement with the landscape.” (Price 2020).
This recognition of what I am seeking in my work had previously been articulated in late 2019 as I realised that it was not the phenomenon (or sensory experience) that I was interested in:
“I recognised that it was not the phenomenal that inspired and challenged me but, in Kantian terms, it was the noumenal – the hidden reality that lies behind sensory experience. The ontology of Latour (2005), Meillassoux (2008), Ortega (1925) and (1975) and particularly Graham Harman (2018) began to answer my questions [about my practice]: my search was not for meaning in a classical sense but rather to reveal, for anybody that looks, the essential reality and truth that lies below the flux of sensory perception.” (Price 2019).
So, my work is about identifying the moment of emergence of reality and capturing that moment in time before it withdraws. Have you ever had the experience of looking at something, looking away and when your gaze returns the object has disappeared? Sometimes it can happen when star gazing. You see something that is very feint, the object of your attention, and as you try to focus on it, it withdraws from perception, and it is no longer visible. If you divert your attention, then, on the edge of your vision, it re-emerges.
I have picked up various references to similar concepts in the work of others. For example, Daniel Gustav Cramer talks of revealing and concealing with respect to his work Trilogy (2005-15) although this is a conscious rather than subconscious act, and Thomas Joshua Cooper refers to glancing and gazing – a little different but he makes the distinction between a short connection with the object of attention as a glance, and gazing as a more concentrated focus.
My work, is about the intrinsic nature of the object, that emerges and withdraws however, there is also a further link to my practice in the context of the camera as object. I have long seen my photographic practice as intuitive and my use of the camera is second nature. I can spend hours immersed in my photography without consciously engaging with the functionality of camera. Furthermore, I feel that when I am doing my best work, the camera becomes an extension of me and through my intuitive feel for the camera in my hands I am able to enter a sub-conscious state, thereby engaging with the emergence and revelation of the object of my image. In Heidegger’s (1953) terms, the camera has lost its presence at hand. Dasein (our being according to Heidegger) engages with the instrument and it loses its phenomenal qualities. The camera is no longer a sensory object and in the moment my relationship with it is ephemeral. However, if I then choose to engage with the camera as an instrument then the ephemera is lost.
Graham Harman (2018) calls this type of engagement between the sensory object and the real qualities of the object as eidos:
“Here we encounter the strange fact that a sensual object (which exists only as a correlate of our paying attention to it) nonetheless has real qualities (which exist whether we are aware of them or not.” (Harman 2018 pp161-162).
The right-hand diagram above provides a visual representation of what is happening. The real object (ie the camera (RO)) becomes a sensory object (SO) in my hands. In so doing, its real qualities (RQ) withdraw, and its sensory qualities (SQ) emerge – the phenomena. Through the engagement of the sensory object and the real qualities (through eidos) the link breaks between the real object and real qualities thus denying me access to the essence of the camera (ie the object as a tool, or presence at hand, in Heidegger’s terms).
From my point of view as an artist, the two important dimensions of Harman’s Fourfold (2010) are essence (RO-RQ) and eidos (SO-RQ). However, eidos, the link between SO and RQ can only exist when I use the camera intuitively and sub-consciously. It is this link, the eidos, which forms the basis of my work with many blogs to follow.
Harman, G. (2010). The Quadruple Object. Alresford, Hants, Zero Books.
Harman, G. (2018). Object-Oriented Ontology – A New Theory of Everything. Milton Keynes, Pelican Books.
Heidegger, M. (1953). Being and Time. New York, State University of New York Press.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the Social – an Introduction to Actor Network Theory. New York, Oxford University Press.
Meillassoux, Q. (2008). After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. London, Bloomsbury.
Ortega y Gasset, J. (1925). The Dehumanization of Art and Ideas about the Novel. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
Ortega y Gasset, J. (1975). Phenomenology and Art. Toronto, George J McLeod Limited.
Price, A. B. J. (2019). The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye: Critical Review of Practice, Falmouth University.
Price, A. B. J. (2020). “Thought Piece 4 – Sense of Place and the Single Image.”