phenomenology and photography

I have to admit that I had no clear idea of this from the beginning.

I have thousands of pictures and I have hundreds of books. So, my idea was initially to use both sources in combination on this blog.I started using pictures, because I thought they would brighten, and break up the blog a bit, and maybe, in some cases, make good illustrations for the verbal points made in the individual posts. Particularly in illustrating some of the gestalt factors the pictures came in handy, since some of them seemed to have been shot for the particular blog post.

Not so. The pictures you find on the blog are in some cases taken many years before a blog on barebones communication came to my mind about a year ago. My favourite post, in this respect, is the one on gestalt direction. Go look it up. The post “Wertheimer would have loved it”. This post, by the way, is one of the posts with the most hits. So, I must have done something right.

As I am the photographer of all the pictures posted, so far, I don’t have to worry about copyrights, since I hold copyrights to all the pictures. It makes life much easier that way, since I am allowed to quote from texts, but I am not allowed to quote from visual material in the same way. I can’t just post somebody else’s pictures.

However, lately, the thought grew on me that maybe my pictures had another role to play, as well. You are probably aware that, for instance, Roland Barthes have written with passion about photography. I am referring to his last book: La Chambre Claire, first published in France in 1980, the year of his untimely death.

I will return to that book in later post, since I fully agree with those stating that this book is one of the most important statements ever made on photography.

But what is more, it constitutes a cross section between semiology and phenomenology (Barthes explicitly refers to Edmund Hussels. Barthes states on page 20 in my copy of the English translation: Camera Lucida, that “In this investigation of Photography, I borrowed something from phenomenology’s project and something from its language”.

Barthes is talking about Edmund Husserl as his inpiration.

There is, however, even a much more important issue at stake here. You know that the phenomenological method includes a “freezing”, a “bracketing” of the natural attitude to be able to describe, and to study it more closely. Maybe you also are aware that one of the key methodological notions within phenomenology is the notion “perspective”.

Question: What is it I do, what is it that every photographer does, when taking or shooting pictures? Answer: Could be phrased this way: I/they/we, as photographers, freeze parts of the world from a certain perspective. That is the very nature of photography.

So, the cross over from photography to phenomenology, is rather obvious to make.

As the blog progressed, it slowly dawned on me, that here is a story that never has been told. I will try to tell it, bit by bit, as the blog unfolds. That was the general idea, anyway.

Think about this idea, and take a look at the picture submitted below: A moment, frozen in time, from a certain perspective. Phenomenological investigation illustrated. Photography on phenomenology. Feel free to re-read the posts on the phenomenological method already posted.

Kids In Alley

Gassin, France, 2002.

All the best to you as well 🙂

For more on the books mentioned, please go here: Library Thing: Roland Barthes: La Chambre Claire, and Library Thing: Roland Barthes: Camera Lucida (translated by Richard Howard).

For more posts on Barthes on this blog, go here, or use the tag cloud for navigation.


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