The ontology of the photographic moment and the insights of Speculative Realism that derive from my practice form the title of my thesis. This shift in approach from my MA in Photography was borne out of a dissatisfaction with phenomenology and a wish to find ways of approaching the essence of Skye rather than succumbing to the dramatic and beautiful, yet sensory world of sweeping landscape images that dominate the market and the internet. I wanted to reveal the island’s ephemeral hiddenness and capture the moment when the Being of another might be revealed. In practice, this led to an analysis of my photographic approach through the Ten-Signifier Onion Diagram which involved non-conscious awareness and quiet contemplation, many hours in the field and dwelling in the natural world, as well as close attention and reading of the landscape.
As I approached the end of my PhD, and in the Conclusion to my thesis, I developed a visual heuristic that clarified how I see the difference between my practice and mainstream photography and the key terms that serve to differentiate my work from others.
In theoretical terms, my work is informed by Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Ontology (2018) and I see the world as a conglomeration of objects, singular and yet entangled through Being. My search is for an awareness of Being in my images that I call allure (2012) – a term borrowed from Graham Harman. My work involves a focus on Harman’s (2018) Real Object and its Real Qualities rather than the phenomenological approach of Subject-Oriented Photography that would inhabit the realms of the Sensory Object and its Sensory Qualities. In my practice, I am engaged in Signification, Abstraction and Reduction rather than a search for Impact, Punctum or Representation. My work involves a non-conscious engagement and awareness and intuitive use of the camera rather than the conscious acts of pre-visualisation and attention (although I do use attention as a means to drift into the non-conscious awareness I am seeking). My practice is quiet in its focus and process and the resultant images too. My photography takes many hours of silence, thought and reflection and a process of returning time after time to familiar places.
Having said that, I believe that in practice the line between Object- and Subject-Oriented Photography is fluid, and there are undoubtedly times when I am compelled to capture a literal representation of this beautiful Island. There are times when I choose to stand back and take in the view rather than drill down in a careful reading of the landscape. There are times too when my technical skills fail me and the non-conscious state, I aim for is lost by my fumbling with the dials on my camera. However, on many occasions, my approach is dominated by an unerring search for Derrida’s (1967) “unnameable glimmer”.
Derrida, J. (1967). Of Grammatology. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.
Harman, G. (2012). Vicarious Causation. Collapse – Philosophical Research and Development, Vol II. R. Mackay. Cambridge, Urbanomic.
Harman, G. (2018). Object-Oriented Ontology – A New Theory of Everything. Milton Keynes, Pelican Books.