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  • Via fotografia: appearance and apparition

Verlak, Tanja, 2018, Thesis, Via fotografia: appearance and apparition PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This PhD thesis addresses an artistic research practice based on the ontology and
phenomenology of the photographic image. Part I presents a series of photographs entitled
Midnight in Mumbai, and Part II considers the act of photographing by examining the
phenomenological aspect of photography arising directly from my artistic practice. By looking
into the prehistory of photography, foregrounding the early developments of the nascent
medium, I first consider notions of photography before the medium’s actual materialisation in
the 1830s; these emerged alongside the latent desire to see the world as a picture ‘true to
nature’ which predominated in literary fiction and experimental scientific texts. It informs us
about how the medium was initially understood, discussed and defined, and offers a valuable
insight into the ontology of the illuminated image (‘Photography before Photography’).
Expanding upon André Bazin’s essay ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’, I consider
the discourse of the early history of the medium to be vital in informing the ontological
questions developed in the thesis.
Taking photography’s early history as a point of departure, my research looks into the
possible manifestations of thinking photographically, and asks whether we can only
photograph what we know already. This relationship of the photographic image to the world
frames my enquiry into the domain of photography. I talk about my photographic work by
answering the questions: Can I only see what I name? (‘Naming’) How do I learn how to
look? (‘Echo’) and Where can I find the photographic picture? (‘Doubt’).
The title of the thesis refers to the speculative history of the medium and to my own
photographic work. Like the nineteenth-century photographers who tried to photograph the
spirit of a human being, my photographs aim to allude to what might not be apparent by
evoking a vision of seeing things that are invisible. The expression ‘via fotografia’ is used as a
method of making phenomena visible photographically. As a medium based on reality that
can reflect the world, however visible or invisible that might be, photography continuously
questions our perception of such reality (‘Picturing Thoughts’). Do we photograph what we
see, or what we think and imagine? This is not to suggest that the acts of photographing and
thinking are the same, but rather to propose that they are not separate from each other.
Photographs, in that sense, are not experienced in terms of their appearance, but in terms of
their continuous appearing.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W630 History of Cinematics and Photography
School or Centre: School of Fine Art
Funders: Stanley Foundation
Date Deposited: 30 May 2018 11:46
Last Modified: 30 May 2018 11:46
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3450

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