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.
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:
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).
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.
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.