Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
The Aristotelian Society
07/03/22: Dawn Wilson on Reflecting, Registering, Recording and Representing: From Light Image to Photographic Picture
52 minutes Posted Mar 14, 2022 at 3:17 am.
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Photography is highly valued as a recording medium. Traditionally it has been claimed that photography is fundamentally a causal recording process, and that every photograph is the causal imprint of the world in front of the camera. In this paper I seek to challenge that traditional view. I claim that it is based on a ‘single-stage’ misconception of the process that defines photographs as mind-independent images and leaves no room for photographic depiction. I explain my objections to that view and propose an alternative, ‘multi-stage’ account of the process, in which I argue that causal registration of light is not equivalent to recording and reproducing an image. The proposed account can explain how photography functions as an exemplary recording medium, without supposing that every photograph is a mind-independent causal imprint of the world. Intervention or non-intervention by photographers is a more complex matter than the traditional view allows. Using the framework of the multistage account, I describe three different ways that photographic pictures can be produced.

Dawn Phillips studied at the University of Durham and wrote her PhD on Wittgenstein’s say-show distinction. She held philosophy positions at Kent, Cork, Southampton, Oxford, and Warwick. In 2011 she became a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hull and, also, became Dawn Wilson.

Dawn has published on Wittgenstein early and late, particularly the Tractatus, including articles on logical analysis, clarity, symbolism, the picture theory of language and the expression of thought. With David Connearn, she co-authored an article about Wittgenstein’s House in Skjolden and co-ordinated an international letters campaign for the conservation of the house and its legacy.

She is interested in language, thought and image, particularly in art and aesthetics and the philosophy of photography. Her article, ‘Photography and Causation’, launched a field of debate known as the ‘New Theory’ of photography and was selected as one of twelve classic texts to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the British Journal of Aesthetics. She recently published ‘Invisible Images and Indeterminacy: Why we need a Multi-stage Account of Photography’ and she is co-authoring, with Laure Blanc-Benon, the photography entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. She is writing a book titled Aesthetics and Photography for Bloomsbury, and articles on temporal representation, co-portraiture, and comparing photography with music.

This podcast is an audio recording of Dr Wilson's talk - "Reflecting, Registering, Recording and Representing: From Light Image to Photographic Picture" - at the Aristotelian Society on 7th March 2022. This recording was produced by the Backdoor Broadcasting Company.