One thing has struck me. Every time I go shooting with a camera I have the feeling that I am executing phenomenology. Why is this? Are there any reasons why I should have such an idea?
I think there is, and I will make a note about it here.
Phenomenology teaches you to study the things themselves. The way you can experience them in the natural attitude doing day to day chores. Beyond that, phenomenology also tells you to wait a second, to freeze the situation, and to study it further. To bring out the heart of the matter.
Phenomenology has special words for these activities. They call it bracketing and phenomenological reduction. Bracketing is the freezing of a situation. Reduction is studying it in detail to bring out the general structures of phenomena. Phenomenology simply means to study, to talk about, or to argue for that which can be experienced. And how it is experienced. As man’s knowledge is confined to that which can be experienced, phenomenology is a basic discipline. A first science.
Doing phenomenology is very similar to what I do with my camera. Bringing my camera with an intention to take a picture, already frames the moment in terms of having that and that intention. When I press the release button, I actually freeze the moment that I intend, or don’t intend, to photograph.
Having done my homework I know what structures a phenomenological reduction brings with it. Every single picture I take is a window to all structures of all experiences. Every time I take a picture I am, in terms of phenomenology, half way there. I do not have to think about bracketing, or freezing, the natural attitude to understand it better. The camera does that for me.
That is what you see reflected in my photographs. That is the type of pictures that I enjoy taking. Take a look at the one above. Every phenomenological dimension you can ever think of, is in there. You only need to unfold them. Here are 425 more photographs you are welcome to look at.
That’s all, ladies and gentlemen. Think about it. Leica, or no Leica.
So high the sky.
The picture is shot with a Leica X1, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin, November 7, 2010.
Yes, I admit that this is a somewhat prosaic title for a blog post.
However, using that caption there is a change that random googlers searching for phenomenology and/or aesthetics will find their way to this post. To this blog.
The reason is that when they get here, I am in a position to inform them that this book it now out, and with an impressive scope handled in about 70 separate articles.
The title is, as you might have guessed: Handbook of Phenomenological Aesthetics. Editors are Hans Rainer Sepp and Lester Embree. It is published by Springer in 2010.
The book is not a collection of essays by the masters themselves: Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Roman Ingarden, whoever. The editors have done better: All articles have been written specially for this handbook, and they are short(er) introductions to specific thinkers, and to specific themes. You can dive in from there. One way is using the suggested bibliography.
Contributors are distinguished scholars within their fields. They give you summaries, interpretations, updates and contributions to the themes/philosophers in question.
Handbook of Phenomenological Aesthetics is not a book you want to read page by page. It is a handbook, a book that you will want to keep close at hand and to grab when the questions are about phenomenology and aesthetics. As such, the book comes with a lot of muscle.
My particular interest, for instance, are the crossroads of phenomenology and photography. Not only as theoretical disciplines, but as practical executor of both. There are plenty of interesting stuff for me: Andrea Pinotti have written about Style; Cathrin Nielsen about Work of Art; Cheung Chan-Fai about Photography; Eliane Escoubas about Paintings, just to mention a few contributors and themes.
I need to come back with reviews of specific articles in separate blog posts, and I will. So far this is just a pointer to the book. As I said, it is impressive. Much needed and much wanted. Now it is here.
Good luck with it.
NB! The photograph above has no direct link to the book.
“The aesthetic qualities of photography are to be sought in its power to lay bare the realities. It is not for me to separate off, in the complex fabric of the objective world, here a reflection on a damp sidewalk, there the gesture of a child. Only the impassive lens, stripping its object of all those ways of seeing it, those piled-up preconceptions, that spiritual dust and grime with which my eyes have covered it, is able to present it in all its virginal purity to my attention and consequently to my love. By the power of photography, the natural image of a world that we neither know nor can know, nature at last does more then imitate art: she imitates the artist.”
André Bazin: The Ontology of the Photographic Image, in Classic Essays on Photography, edited by Alan Trachtenberg, Leete’s Island Books, New Haven 1980, page 242.
“Of course it is impossible to separate thinking from acting; in any practice of photography, in any single picture produced by a camera, there is already an idea of the function, the character, the limits of the medium.”
Classic Essays on Photography, edited by Alan Trachtenberg, Leete’s Island Books, New Haven 1980, Introduction, p. vii.