This research will aim to establish a view of the photographic studio as a discursive formation and as an ‘apparatus for producing visibility’ (Lalvani). It will consider how this uniquely photographic space has come to be constituted in its present form and how the modern subject is constituted within it.
By viewing the studio as a social machine, manufacturing representations within a society that ‘manufactures itself from representations’ (Comolli), I intend to apply ideas originating within the domain of film studies, and in particular apparatus theory, exploring how the photographic apparatus, of which the studio is a part, might provide a particular environment for replaying repressed fantasies of the imaginary. Psychoanalytic theory will be further employed in examining how the studio is screened off as a space into which we might project or perform ourselves as image; the studio backdrop often creating a ‘spatial dislocation into a magical elsewhere’ (Lippard). The citing of commercial photographic portraits as examples of photographic punctum by Barthes and the irreal by Baudrillard will also be examined in terms of how the photographer’s studio provides a space where photography itself might reveal an 'otherness' seemingly free from any artistic intention on the part of the photographer.
It is intended that my photographic work will be central to this research, whilst functioning dialogically with the written thesis. I will aim to produce up to four sets of images, with corresponding chapters, that make the studio spaces of vernacular portraiture visible in different ways; each alluding to, and encouraging a questioning through, concepts that might underlie their cultural function.
The aim of this research project is to produce a coherent and thought provoking body of photographic work that engages with the commercial vernacular portrait studio and its output; encouraging these to be viewed from a psychoanalytical perspective. This body of work will be located within the context of contemporary photographic art practice as an independent and original contribution to the field. In addition, this photographic work will underpin and precipitate a body of written research that will provide pertinent and valuable additions to current discourses within the fields of psychoanalytical photographic theory and photographic fine art practice by introducing a largely overlooked aspect of commercial photographic practice into these areas.
AHRC Doctoral Student Award – 3 years of funding for full-time study (2011-2014)