Reflection: Shadow and Surface

Following the introduction with my tutor for BoW, Robert, I felt compelled to reflect on how my interest in Korean photography can coincide with the progress made during my last module Documentary 2. Robert challenged me to reconsider the influence the course may have had on my practice. The regular theme in my work during Documentary 2 was the physicality and self-reflection of lived experience. By extension Robert suggested to spend time looking into phenomenology.

During my Documentary course I outlined how I enjoy the interaction of industrial sculpture by artists such as Richard Serra and James Turrell. While during my research I unearthed differing points of view on the politics of such works, this is not the debate I am interested in. My interest was/is in the purpose of the sculpture itself, for the spectator to interpret light, space, time and weight based on his/her interaction. I use my smartphone to make sketches (or notations) of compositional structures and I enjoy the physicality of exploring these spaces with a lens.

Following on from this, I based my major Documentary project on a James Turrell Skyspace in YSP (Yorkshire Sculpture Park). The assignment was conducted around a singular prearranged trip. What I later realise is that while the sculptures are facilitators of space and light. They are still subjects! Which have a subjective reaction to viewers through name, reputation, politics to name a few.

I am not interested in these things at the end of the day. The modernist in me is far more engaged "not so much by content as by form.” (Howells, 2011, p.193). So in my early experiments I have found the interest in the projection of shadows.

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How does this relate to the Asian aesthetic? Much of East Asian culture and indeed art is based around ritual and practical exercises. Zen in particular employs the notion of theory must be put into practice in order to be realised. The Japanese author Junichirō Tanizaki wrote an entire book on the beauty of shadows in which he proclaims “If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty.” (Tanizaki, 1933/2001, p.48). So maybe the connection lies in a conceptual sense rather than a pictorial appreciation. This is something I will look to consider next in A1.


Howells, R (2011) Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Tanizaki, J (1933/2001) In Praise of Shadows. London: Vintage.