Before we start this interview, and let’s say, some of our readers took an interest in this area, are there any books that you would recommend? Let’s face it, a discipline like phenomenology is not something all our readers have for breakfast. It is difficult enough to pronounce the word. What would you recommend? Only ONE book.
Hmm, now I could pretend that this was a very difficult question, but it is not. It took me more than 20 years to realize that everything that has to do with phenomenology is really very simple and straightforward. I will come back to that later, but if you ask me to recommend one, and only one, book to get a feel of it, I have no other choice than to tell you that that book is called: Introduction to Phenomenology. It is written by an American named Robert Sokolowski.
I found this book by accident some years ago at my old university in Bergen, Norway. It is very, very good. It is not quite there yet, but it is close. Read that, read it once more, and read it many more times. Till you get the feel of it. This book has nothing to do with photography, but it gives you what you need at the moment concerning phenomenology. Even that is not an easy book if you know nothing about phenomenology. Remember that understanding phenomenology demands that you refresh your brain a bit. Many people are not used to that (smiling).
Most people misses the point of phenomenology. This goes particularly for university people. They think that phenomenology is something you read in books. This might very well be so in the beginning, but basically phenomenology is something YOU DO. It it even a lifestyle. A lifestyle of observing, describing and acting accordingly. Very similar to photography, in fact.
Then, as a SECOND book I would get a copy of Jean-Pierre Montier’s: Henri Cartier- Bresson: Seine Kunst – Sin Leben. Find the English version. It is called The Artless Art. Read it and study the pictures. I will tell you later why this is such a good match.
But If you only want one book at this stage, it got to be Sokolowski’s.
Here we go then.
For some time, I have had the idea of writing a bit more substantially about photography and phenomenology. Note that I have changed the order of things here: Photography first, and phenomenology second. That is also my priorities.
Not that I particularly fancy the work involved here, but looking over the literature I am actually not that impressed with what I see. If I see anything at all. At couple of years ago, I had the idea that someone else must take on this task or it will not be done. But no one raised their hands. At least not that I know of.
So I will do it, but I will do it my own way.
I have no intention of producing another unreadable, that phenomenologists, are so very good at. I will do this as a practical layout for an approach to photography. Street photography first and foremost. I will do this in no haste, since I have no haste. I will do it just the way I take pictures: The good way: Take the camera, get out there and anticipate that things will happen. They always do. In that respect, I am very lucky. I hope to have some of the same luck here.
This means, that I, at the present moment, only have a rough idea what to write about and the direction I want to move in. That is all, so this is going to be exciting to me as well. Look at this as a RAW file. I can always crop and modify the picture later.
Since both photography and phenomenology are personal matters, that, if you are lucky enough, others will take an interest in, the form of this essay will be an interview. I will interview myself.
The good thing with an interview is that you need to pose the questions before you give the answers, but as we all know, you also need to know the answers before you can pose the questions, this method seems appropriate.
I will a assemble all the interview sections in a large post later, but already now each fragment will be collected on a page simply called The Interview. Look for the page section.
If you are interested in following this experiment, he best way to stay tuned is to subscribe to the blog. You can do that in the right hand side bar.
Good luck with it. All of it.
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.
“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.