Thoughtfactory: large format

a minor blog about the trials, tribulations and explorations of large format, analogue photography in Australia

conceptual photography

Below is an early large format conceptual photo using  the  carpark of the Adelaide Central Market as a location:

Looking back I can see that it referred to the concept of the sublime that permeates our culture as complex emotional configurations. The sublime has different understandings in the history of our culture, but since Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant  it is usually contrasted with, or seen as the opposite of,  the concept of beauty in aesthetics.The aesthetic of the sublime  usually refers to a boundary, threshold  or limit that divides the knowable, familiar world and the spheres of the unknown. The sublime in aesthetics is  associated with broaching limits and is traditionally situated in the  sphere of the  unknown or the infinite.

The photo  referred to the fear  of going blind; then having to shop in the central market whilst being  blind and not being able to see colours, such as yellow. The fear included horror or  terror at going blind. It was  heavy handed in its execution and  unsuccessful as an art work since the curator of the  exhibition rejected it. That put me off doing conceptual photography other than making something conceptually simplistic such as carparks. 

 Though conceptual documentary  seems a misnomer, the idea of the sublime was appropriate. For instance, Burke's theory of the sublime in his A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), which works with the tradition of Longinus that stresses the dominating power of the sublime,  draws on the experience of unknown threatening forces inciting the feeling of fear belonging to self-preservation.The sublime is associated with otherness and the passions;  namely, the feeling of terror  incited by a threat of privation and annihilation, in particular, by vacuity, darkness, solitude and silence. According to Burke, the experience of the sublime involves the feelings of sympathy and pity, making the individual imagine himself in the position of a person in distress.

Unlike Kant Burke minimises the role of the subject's mind in the experience of the sublime and he places the emphasis on the sublime as a natural force that is beyond human ability  to control. Burke derives the mental reaction from the physical, and in doing so limits the role of reason in the experience of the sublime.