Light Reading: Theoretical Perspectives on Photography as Research

Dr. Ashley Whamond
2012 Conference

Practice-led research is often theorised in isolation from the more traditional theoretical discourses surrounding the particular studio practice that is leading the research. The result of this is that comparisons and analogies are drawn from areas that are fundamentally different in nature from creative practice, such as science. These analogies are designed to assert some validity for creative research practices that is based on a presumably previously unrealised similarity with traditional research methods. While this kind of argument, at its core, addresses some important issues for creative researchers, it does so through an ontological compromise. The core purpose of the establishment of a research paradigm that is led by, or based in practice, is to assert those practices as sufficiently intellectually rigorous so as to be understood as research practices in their own right – otherwise why would it be needed?

This paper looks at research practices in photography in the context of a critical analysis of the existing claims for photography as a research method. These claims most often rely on assumptions about the photographic medium, its relationship to nature, and also its perceived mechanical objectivity. Such points are themselves the subject of extensive criticism in the theoretical discourse of photography, but these spheres of thought never intersect. As this paper will demonstrate, however, there is much to be gained from such an intersection.

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About the author

Dr. Ashley Whamond currently teaches Fine Art and Art Theory at the Queensland college of Art. He received his PhD from the University of Newcastle in 2007 where he taught until 2008. He is engaged in the supervision of a number of diverse postgraduate research projects and convenes the undergraduate honours program at QCA’s Gold Coast campus.

Ashley’s own research is focussed on the history and theory of photography, digital media and web culture, and issues of materiality in digital culture. His art practice is concerned with how images are used and consumed in a mediated society. Ashley’s teaching and pedagogical research is informed by his interest in studio research and the integration of theory and practice.