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Posts tagged “Knut Skjærven

Husserl: Photograph’s Three Objects.

Honouring Henri.© Knut Skjærven.

There are a couple of statements that are “a must” for everyone who deals with phenomenology and photography. The statements are made by Edmund Husserl, and found in the text for the winter semester lectures held in 1904-1905. He gave these lectures in Göttingen, Germany.

Speaking about perception, images, phantasy and memory he moves into the area of physical images. In chapter two of the lectures he speaks about physical images, and even about photographs.The situation is, as he says, “somewhat more complicated” (20)

“For example, there lies before us a photograph representing a child.” (20) Husserl continues by stating that we, in fact, deals with three object:

“We have three objects: 1) the physical image, the physical thing made from canvas, marble and so on; 2) the representing or depicting object; and 3) the represented or depicted object. For the latter we prefer to say simply “image subject“; for the first object we prefer “physical image”; for the second, “representing image” or “image object”. (21)

Husserl deals with photographs as a particular type of image (or picture). What he says about images includes reference to painting, drawing, sculpture “and so on”. In that context he occasionally speaks explicitly about photography, and film.

Husserl’s statements imply the following for the photograph above:

Physical Image:

The physical image is the combination of pixels that I perceive at my computer screen at this very moment. Likewise, what you perceive on your screen. Husserl did not, for obvious reasons, speak about screen images in 1904-1905.

If I want to manipulate the pixels I can do that in different image editors, or I can simply turn off the screen and the image will be gone.

If I print the image on paper, I can tear it up, lay it on my desk, place it upside down, hang it on the wall, or whatever.

The physical image is quite indifferent as to what is depicted (image subject) or what is depicting  (image object).

Image Subject:

The image subject is a particular spot at the wall memorial at Bernauer Strasse in Berlin. Including the people and other physical objects, that were present.

Image Object:

The image object is what you would normally refer to as the picture or the photograph. It shows what it shows in the way it shows it. In this case the image object is a piece of a wall with some people in front of it. Different activities are observed. Is it a cropped picture where the composition plays an important part. It is a black and white picture. And so on …

Some would say that a picture, when the picture is a photograph, is merely a mechanical reproduction of what was in front of the lens when the release button was pressed. Certainly something was in front of the lens (and always is) when this photograph was taken, but a photograph is hardly a mere mechanical reproduction of an image subject.

Yes, it is a bit complicated. I am not sure if three objects will do it either. Since this is merely a note, however, I will leave it here.

Quotes are made from Edmund Husserl: Phantasy, Image, Consciousness, and Memory (1898-1925), translated by John B. Brough, Springer 2005. The numbers in brackets are reference to pages in the book. For full information on the book please see Library Thing.

Announcing: New Series of Notes

Train Transition. © Knut Skjærven

I am starting a new series of posts. These posts will have the form of notes, much like the ones you have in your personal notebook made of paper. The difference is, of course, that these notes will be made public. Feel free to comment as they emerge. You can do that in whatever way you find suitable.

The notes will have the form of short, unpretentious, often fragmented pieces of information from areas within phenomenology that will be relevant for investigating photography as a phenomenological phenomenon. Many of the posts will be inspired by well known philosophers, and their well known phenomenological texts. Others may seek to pave a new way.

In the notes, I will also seek to bridge the gap between phenomenological description of photography, and the activity of taking pictures with a camera. I find that to be an interesting task since I have a liking to both practical phenomenology and practical photography. Yes, I do think that there is a special affinity between phenomenology, and certain types of photography. That issue has not been investigated yet. My hope is that I will be able to contribute to make that affinity more tangible.

Some of you may have noticed, that apart from running this blog, I also run two picture blogs. The largest one being Berlin Black And White, which I started in July 2010. At this moment it holds 270 photographs. The second picture blog is Photos Of The Danes, which is quite recent and does not hold that many images.

And there is barebones communication, which has a much wider scope. That blog was started in November 2007, and already took an explicit interest in phenomenology and photography at that time.

I have worked rather hastily in loading pictures to Berlin Black And White. The reason is, that I wanted to have a stock of pictures in place for the blog you are reading now: Phenomenology and Photography. I believe that many of the pictures loaded to that blog are shot in a phenomenological “frame of mind”. They honour certain unspoken demands that phenomenology could be said to pose on photography.

Mind you, I could be wrong in this assumption. Please, therefore, consider  it a hypothesis to be investigated. Such an investigation will indeed be a main theme on this blog. The forthcoming notes will, hopefully, bring bits and pieces to such an investigation.

I cannot explicitly tell you why I find many of the shots in the Berlin photo blog particularly phenomenological, for the simple reason that I am not able to set words on it yet. It is more of a gut feeling based on certain phenomenological preliminaries. So, you have to bear with me for the time being. Just as I have to bear with me.

I am excited to see where the series of notes will take the investigation, as I hope some of you are too. Why don’t you start by looking at some of the photographs in Berlin Black And White. There is even a slideshow presenting some of them. See if you can spot the preliminaries :-).



This post have been tagged: note, notes, notebook. A new category has been set up, as well: notebook.

Husserl’s Curious Image

Curious Couple. © Knut Skjærven.

What’s luck got to do with it? A lot, I would say. Being at the right place at the right time.

Last week I decided to start mapping out the best brains on phenomenology and photography. Not separately, but combined. Who are they, where are they, and what have they done that could be of interest for this project. What are they presently working on?

I started to ask around. It was my guess that the Husserl-Archives in Leuven, Belgium, would be one of the good places to start. They should know who is who, where and when.

I had a look at their web page, but that did not ring any immediate bells so I just roamed the site. And there it was: Professor John Brough (Georgetown University, Washington D.C.) was on his way to Leuven, Belgium, to do a guest lecture. (This was Thursday October 7, 2010.) The theme: The Curious Image: Husserlian Thoughts on Photography. To be held Monday 11 October, 17.00 – 19.00, Room C. I could even download a poster.

I know John Brough’s reputations already. He is the guy who translated Husserl’s Phantasie, Bildbewusstsein, Erinnerung (Husserliana Band XXXIII), which, I am ashamed to say, have owned for many years, but until recently never have done anything serious about. I bought the English translation by Brough a couple of years back, and was actually re-reading his brilliant introduction, when I found out about the guest lecture in Belgium. I wanted to drive down (from Copenhagen, Denmark), but there was not much time to prepare. So I did not go.

Did you know, by the way, that you can read most of John Brough’s English translation, absolutely free of charge. On the net. Try it. You can definitely read the Introduction.

There is even more: Handbook of Phenomenological Aesthetics just came out. Edited by Hans Rainer Sepp and Lester Embree. I am the lucky owner of one copy. Professor Brough has two articles in the book. The first one is titled: Edmund Husserl (1859 -1938), and the second one is on Representation. Both are good reads on the way to photography.

The common view is that Husserl said very little about photography. I don’t hold that opinion.

That is, basically, what I wanted to tell you. I am really looking forward to reading John Brough’s guest lecture on Husserl’s curious image. Once it is ready for publishing. I will probably write about it too. If I am right, the lecture definitely fills a gap.

Should I say that I am eagerly curious, or is that too banal?

NB: The photograph above has nothing to do with the lecture. It has been inserted for visual purposes, by the blog author. Go here for more photographs.

Handbook of Phenomenological Aesthetics

Photographer's Eye. © 2010: Knut Skjærven.

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.

Have a look at the content.

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.

Library Thing.

NB! The photograph above has no direct link to the book.

Sporting Life

Sporting Life.

André Bazin:

“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.

Library Thing.

In Any Single Picture

French Visit.

“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.

Library Thing.