Photographing landscape: a theory of the experience of making

Harris, Philip (2011) Photographing landscape: a theory of the experience of making. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Existing photographic theory prioritises the image over any account of making. To date there is no theory that engages with the making of photographs and photographic works. Where the critical theory of the late 1970s and early 1980s saw major developments towards more culturally inclusive accounts of photography, it did little to address and even avoided the conditions of how photographs and photographic works of art came into being. As a consequence making has been consistently overlooked in photographic theory, leaving the issue of making images and photographic works absent of any constructive theory that could be used to describe and account for the complex activities and thought processes that are involved. My research aims to address this and to work towards providing a theoretical approach that accounts for making, specifically within the context of making photographs of the landscape.

In an attempt to provide this I have turned to a late essay by Martin Heidegger - The Question Concerning Technology (1956) - as a philosophical model since he addresses many issues related to making in a culture defined by its reliance on technology. In this essay Heidegger provides a rereading of Aristotleʼs theory of the causes of making (350 B.C.) to provide a rich potential for a constructive, though not unproblematic, account of how making takes place and is embedded in culture. I adopt the model of four causes as a means to provide a hermeneutic description of the stages of making photographs and a completed work. I discuss at length my experiences of photographing, post-production and the construction of a book of photographs as a coherent work of art. In conclusion, I find that the theory of causation offers much potential in providing a means of theorising the drawing together of the things that have been photographed, the mode of their representation and presentation, the discourse that circumscribes making and the purpose of the work. A potential weakness is that in providing a model for excellence it does not fully account for failure, doubt and uncertainty, aspects that seem intrinsic risks when making art work. On the other hand it does seem to provide a method for navigating a way towards the construction of a work, albeit one framed within a particular genre, that accounts for the pre-existence of a greater world and history. In this way, it provides a promising theory for making in the absence of critical debate related to how photographers make work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
November 2011Completed
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-04 - cinematics and photography
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Institute of Creative Arts > Birmingham School of Art
Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Richard Birley
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2017 11:04
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 16:57

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