PhD Research – 2004-08


Photography and the Representation of Modernist Architectural Space: From the Melancholy Fragment to the Colour of Utopia.

The questions that this project poses are centred on an examination of photography’s relationship to modernist architectural space. Polarising the melancholic and the utopian, the definition of photography is extended to include its manifestation across a number of diverse sites and processes. What is the connection between the processes and technology of photography and its representation of modernist space? How can these relationships inform and articulate a photographic practice?

This thesis comprises five key areas of investigation, with each theoretical chapter being followed by a complementary sequence of photographic images. The first section considers the process of ‘fragmentation’ in relation to a body of photographs which I have termed ‘fragments’. These images reveal the aspirational or utopian content of modernist architecture as a condition of loss or melancholy. The second section develops the notion of the ‘fragment’ in relation to ‘allegory’, which I argue, opens photography to metaphoric interpretation thus taking on the duality of meaning.

The third section uses W.G.Sebald’s novel Austerlitz and Kracauer’s work on history, to locate this duality within Husserl’s Lebenswelt. The fourth section shifts the emphasis of inquiry towards an examination of how the utopian emerges within specific aspects of the photo-reprographic process, such as the error of misregistration in colour printing. This forms the basis for a development of the practice into the field of the photographic representation of colour. The fifth section looks at how colour has been added to the monochromatic image in a series of postcards of modernist architecture from the 1930’s thus suggesting a site of utopian investment. With reference to Kristeva and Benjamin I develop the notion of colour as an excess of meaning indicative of utopian aspiration.

The conclusion of the project is firmly located in the practice outcome and a body of work, which I have termed ‘constructed images’. Representing a convergence of the five themes, these reveal the ability of photography to uniquely articulate the utopian-melancholy polarity, a transformative process, intervening into architectural space to indicate new ways of thinking about it.

Practice-based PhD in Arts and Communication at the University for the Creative Arts, Maidstone. Funded by the AHRC.

Available to view at

Constructed Images 2006

These images were produced as part of the practical research outcome using a variety of originating sources, from photographic images to historic material such as book reproductions and postcard images. This work exploits digital production and printing processes and varies in dimensions from a working size of 54 cm in length to exhibited pieces at 182 cm in length.

Click on images to enlarge.

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