Rainy Day. You can install life into a shot by taking it at the right moment. All these people are actually on the move since it was pouring down. You can have additional movement in a shot by separating people, groups of people, objects, space and directions. The basic point here is that you need to foresee what will happen. Not that you have much time to do it in. Berlin, June 2011.
It has been a long time.
Yes, it has.
Why have you suddenly sent me this image? I thought we had a deal, that you should mail me when you were ready to continue the interview?
Yes, so was it, but things change and now I decided to sent you this image in stead? You can ask me questions if you want to. Or have the time. I recon you are pretty busy.
Questions, questions. Yes, I am rather … (thinking, and after a short while). Of course, I’ll be glad to. (More thinking). Well, then: Why have you sent me this image?
Because it is important.
Why do you find this image important. It is rather simple isn’t it?
It is important. Do you find it simple? I don’t find it simple at all. Are we looking at the same picture?
I look at the one you have sent me, the foreigner carrying a chair and then part of a window with two models. It that not you have sent me? Do you have a colour version, as well? By the way the image is unsharp.
Yes, it is, but if that is all your see then you see only a fraction of it. Look at all the things you don’t see. Yes, I have colour, but those are just for me. Unsharp is not important. Maybe it is even better.
How can I? See more?
That is up to you, but you need to learn it because many of my images are about what is not there. What is not in the picture. That is what I take pictures of, yes: What is not there. The image is just the beginning of a story that only you can tell. Maybe another day would be better for you?
Yes, please. Mail me.
For more posts in the interview series, please go here.
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?
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.