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Title: Via fotografia : appearance and apparition
Author: Verlak, Tanja
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 2137
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2018
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Stanley Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: W630 History of Cinematics and Photography