Taking Photographs Beyond the Visual: Paper as a Material Signifier in Photographic Indexicality

Kozlowska, Agnieszka (2014) Taking Photographs Beyond the Visual: Paper as a Material Signifier in Photographic Indexicality. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Despite the fact that photographs come into being as material objects imprinted with light reflected off the subject in front of the camera, and therefore possess a decidedly physical connection to their referent, the materiality of photographs tends to be overlooked in favour of apprehending them as primarily visual signs independent of their physical support.

This practice-led research project under the title Taking Photographs Beyond the Visual: Paper as a Material Signifier in Photographic Indexicality explores the status of photographs as physical traces. In an attempt to find ways in which remote natural locations could be expressed more fully than it is possible by means of purely visual representation, papermaking and image-formation are combined in a single process executed entirely on-site.

This working method was developed during the course of the project through artist residencies in Switzerland and a thorough research of traditional papermaking that included visits to numerous European paper mills. The making of each work involves an absurdly laborious and time-consuming process of hiking to an alpine location, making paper on-site from local plants and - using only the inherent light-sensitivity of plant substances - exposing it for many days in a camera built there partly from found natural materials.

The resulting photographic objects function as pure indices in the semiotician Charles Sanders Peirce’s understanding of the term – as traces that point to their causes without necessarily revealing anything about the nature of the latter. They are artefacts testifying primarily through their presence, rather than through pictorial representation, to the exposure having taken place. Such process of signification requires the viewer’s active, haptic and imaginative response. The work proposes a way of photographically representing place as elemental - that is,
existing outside the human schema of production, consumption and meaning – instead of through such cultural constructs as ‘landscape’ or ‘the scenic’.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: 2-volume thesis.
Uncontrolled Keywords: photography, semiotics, fine art, papermaking, phenomenology
Subjects: W100 Fine Art
W600 Cinematics and Photography
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2014 15:40
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2023 15:21
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/16882

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