Sunday 15 September 2019

Object-Oriented Ontology - Part Two

Question #1 (Husband to Larry):
“So, does this object-oriented ontology business mean that if a tree falls in the forest – and nobody is there to listen – it still makes a sound?”
Answer #1 (Larry to Husband):

Question #2 (Photographer Friend to Larry):
“Um, aren’t you already doing this?”
Answer #2 (Larry to Photographer Friend):
“Well, I guess so...”

Question #3 (Universe to Larry):
“So, are we having fun yet?”
Answer #3 (Larry to Universe):
“Oh, yes!”

Forgive me for taking another run at object-oriented ontology. Last week, I wrote about my understanding of OOO, especially as it related to photography. Essentially, OOO takes issue with a world where only human perceptions, categories, and understandings have value. A tree falling in the forest does makes a sound, whether or not a human is present to acknowledge it. 

I am fascinated by how this approach to reality plays out in photography. OOO beckons me to honour the life and integrity of the objects in my photos without drawing attention to myself in the process. It is a worthy challenge. 

My skepticism about OOO started to evaporate when I spent the day after Labour Day wandering around Picton with my camera. Since retiring, I have been treating myself to a ‘Tuesday-after-Labour-Day’ fieldtrip to count my blessings. This time, I determined to photograph with OOO in mind. Some might call it street photography without people. [Intriguingly, husband thinks OOO-inspired street photography can also include people. I’m still thinking about that one...] At first, my photography in Picton was self-conscious and uninspired, but I soon got into the flow of it – seeking objects that seemed to have lives of their own without needing me to acknowledge them. After three hours of photography, I had almost 400 images. 

However, it was the process of editing these 400 photos in Lightroom the next day that was fascinating. It was different from other editing sessions – the photos took on lives of their own. A little uncanny, but it felt like I was having a dynamic conversation with them. There was a mutuality at play. And I loved it.

Update: after I posted Part One of my thoughts on OOO, my dear Tasmanian friend Jan, who lived in Japan for several years, told me that OOO reminds her of the Japanese visual concept of ‘katachi’. The word ‘katachi’ is a composite of the Japanese words ‘kata’(pattern) and ‘chi’(magical power). Thus the term ‘katachi’ means ‘a complete form’ or ‘a form telling an attractive story’. Thank you for this insight, Jan! It addresses my concern that objects in OOO photographs can be so free of human engagement that they risk being bleak and drab. Instead, the parallel Japanese concept of ‘katachi’ assumes that useful objects are also elegant and beautiful. And, yes, I know that bleakness, drabness, usefulness, elegance, and beauty are all culture-specific, human constructs, but at least the combination of ‘katachi’ and OOO opens me to seeking objects that are both pleasing to my eye and filled with their own integrity. And, as husband Bill points out, the blending of ancient ‘katachi' and contemporary OOO makes for a perfect balance. Praise be.

I look forward to discussing ‘katachi’ and OOO with Jan and Bill over a bottle of good Australian wine during our next visit to Tasmania. Meanwhile, Bill has ordered me a rare used book about ‘katachi’. How blessed am I? And spoiled!

The ten photos that follow reflect my humble novice’s understanding of both OOO and ‘katachi’. I hope you enjoy them. I will continue to explore OOO and ‘katachi’ in my photography and will keep you posted. This journey is far from over...

I plan to take the next two weeks off from blogging. Husband Bill is giving quilt presentations in Winnipeg and Elliot Lake – and I get to tag along. “I’m with the band,” as they say. And, yes, I’m taking my camera...

Meanwhile, dear readers, stay humble and curious – it keeps us confused and engaged. 

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