a blog by knut skjærven

The Interview: Question Three.

Send In The Clowns. © Knut Skjærven.


Let’s move on if that is ok with you?

I have read your blog, or should I say blogs. I particularly refer to certain passages and, what should I say, indications that you seem to come with more than one time. I find them, for instance, in barebones communication, your first blog that deals with photography. Among many other things. You started that in November 2007.

You say, or at least indicate, that there is an affinity between phenomenology and photography. I understand that it was thoughts like that led to the making of the present blog.

I find it fascinating that you also seem to indicate there is a type of affinity even between phenomenology and black and white photography. You even take it so far as to you say that this affinity can be shown in the some of the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

So my question is simple is if you would be willing to elaborate on this? I can’t see that you have done that anywhere else?


Yes, it is true that I have indicated that. It is also true that I have until now, not done much about explaining it. The reason is simple that it is complicated. I don’t think I am finished elaborating on it either. But ok, I will give it a try. It is good that you push this question. However, please look at this as a preliminary answer. I may come back and change and add to it another time.

You know that phenomenology says that man mostly operated in the natural attitude. The natural attitude has a practical and a scientific dimension.

The practical dimension has to do with our life-world where all our daily, practical experiences and doings take place. This interview, for instance, happens in the natural attitude. You and I talk together in a life-words setting.

Phenomenology, however, also deals with a phenomenological attitude. Please note that I say too. It is not a question of leaving the natural attitude and move into another sphere. Nothing strange about it at all.

The phenomenological attitude carries different names, but here I will simple call it the phenomenological attitude.

In the phenomenological attitude you arrest whatever you are occupied with in the natural attitude. Phenomenology calls this to bracket the world. The world is still there, but you set it out of play so you can have a closer look at it. That is a phenomenological approach and a phenomenological investigation. Much like a photographer arrests a life word incident by pressing the shutter on her/his camera.

Now why would anyone want to make an arrest as this?  Obviously to get a better understanding of it. You detain the incident for a moment to see what makes it up.

What makes it up reveals it self as, what I will call, structures of consciousness. These structures of consciousness are the heart of the matter for phenomenology. Unfolding them and understanding them are what phenomenology is all about.

Let me take an example: At this very moment I am concentrated on this interview. I think and I speak and this activity is directed towards you as an interviewer. The activity is at the core of my attention. When I operate within the natural attitude, in the life-world, that is all I need to know. It is all that you need to know about this situation, as well. We agree on this and we understand each other

When I arrest this simple situation another and much more varied and complex picture turns up. Not that it is more difficult once you get a grip of it.  This is the move from one attitude to another. Like having a different pair of glasses on. I get to know, for instance, that this, as any other moment, is carried by my consciousness. That consciousness is like a web with threads spread all over. It links to a future, it links to a past, it links to an outer world, it links to an inner world, it links to your world, as well.  In the natural attitude all this is taken for granted or not questioned. In the phenomenological attitude you investigate these structures of consciousness.

Apply this to photography and you get an amazing way of seeing. Take pictures in the natural attitude you will get what is there. Take pictures in the phenomenological attitude and you will even get what is not there.

You could say that photography in the natural attitude is all about taking pictures of physical things. Photography in the phenomenological attitude is all about  taking pictures of relations.

Look at the photograph that comes with this post, as well as the photograph that came with the former post. First and foremost they are pictures of relations. That is what I try do to with my photography.

Are you with me?


(Silence) Let’s have a short break, and continue this session a bit later. Would that be ok?


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