WORKING WITHIN | POST-PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE PRACTICE OF ECOLOGICAL STEWARDSHIP

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Working Within is a practice-as-research project exploring alternative approaches to photography at a time of ecological crisis. Situated within the post-photographic moment, Working Within combines ecological thinking with the moral practice of stewardship to explore approaches to making that critique the enduring European aesthetic traditions of landscape photography. Such traditions are built upon dualistic thinking and perpetuate the myth of human beings as separate or above the rest of the natural world. As the realities of our actions begin to manifest in the form of anthropogenic climate change, we know this not to be true. This project explores an ecological worldview from within, using alternative modes of photography to develop an ethical aesthetic grounded in engagement, openness and respect.

The various photographic projects of Working Within employ a variety of methodological approaches to explore new channels of dialogue. Each responding in some way to the threatening complexity of anthropogenic climate change and ecological estrangement, while also trying to subvert or flatten historical hierarchies that have allowed the ongoing exploitation of earth’s resources and nonhuman life. This falls in line with the growing movement across disciplines, seeking to question anthropocentric thinking and the values of consumption and excess associated with a globalized, capitalist, consumer society. Ultimately, it is cameraless photography, specifically the generative and collaborative process called lumen printing, which is embraced as most effectively embodying the ecological values that will inform a new cultural period of earthly stewardship.

The lumen print process is reminiscent of the earliest forms of photographic experimentation. In this contemporary application, the process has been refined to embody a more ecological approach by embracing openness, engagement and the serendipity of chance. Each lumen print is a unique object, the outcome of a collaboration between multiple forms of human and non-human agency. As an object that reveals itself slowly, lumen prints conjure a dual indexicality which points to the haptic exchange registered in both photographic and material terms, while also evoking the ceaseless cycle of give and take at the heart of all ecological process. In this approach, the representative powers of cameraless photography are considered in equal measure with their affective and material qualities, to both embody and enact the reciprocity and respect central to an emergent culture of ecological stewardship.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Wood, Susan, Principal Supervisor
  • Overton, Neill, Principal Supervisor
Award date17 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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