When we came across Alexandra Lethbridge's new series of work 'Other Ways of Knowing' at Brighton Photo Fringe recently we were more than intrigued by the concept and thought behind it. We've followed Alexandra's work since she graduated from the University of Brighton with a Masters in Photography in 2014, and got involved as a Shutter Hub member. Her book The Meteorite Hunter, was shortlisted for the 2014 Paris Photo /Aperture Foundation First PhotoBook Award and has recently been added to the collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Alexandra Lethbridge's work has been exhibited internationally at Circulations Festival, Paris; Encontros de Imagem Festival, Portugal; Pingyao International Photography Festival, China; Delhi Photo Festival, India; and Fotografia Europea Festival, Italy, and has been published in numerous magazines and online publications including Hotshoe, LensCulture, Der Grief, Photoworks, Self Publish Be Happy, Pik magazine, Float magazine, Introdex magazine, Wired Magazine, and The Telegraph online.
As is the idea of our Close Up series, we invited Alexandra to share some detail on 'Other Ways of Knowing' and talk us through the project in her own words.
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”
– Aldous Huxley
Expanding upon my recent practice, this work is a continuation of ideas formed through my last series The Meteorite Hunter, focusing on perception, representations of truthful imagery and the role of context in presentation.
Other Ways of Knowing is an exploration into the theatrical illusion of magic and misdirection in comparison to ideas of criminal hoax, deceit and trickery. The pairing of these two concepts, visually aims to examine how our perceptions interpret and inform our understanding of information in different contexts through the employment of deceptive clues, false emphasis, and symbolic meaning.
How we interpret information can be understood through methods described as ‘Ways of Knowing’; the tools that help us scientifically break down how we come to know or acquire knowledge.
There are eight methods, Language, Sense-perception, Emotion, Reason, Imagination, Faith, Intuition and Memory. My series Other Ways of Knowing focuses on visual perception; against that of our own instinct. Adapting these methods by concentrating on aesthetic judgements rather than abstract reasoning, the photographs play with intuitive understandings of what we’re seeing and ask us to judge for ourselves whether what we encounter is fact or fiction.
Biologically, everyone perceives in the same way. The function of the eye determines the visual sensory perception of what we see, but the differences between what we see and what we understand come from cognitive perception, determining the interpretation of those images.
With this series, I question this interpretation and find ways to re-examine what we see, or think we see. I’m interested in how what we expect to see, affects what we actually observe and if that can be manipulated.
I’m partnering this interest with the concept of a magic performance designed to subliminally influence choice by exploiting the limitations of our cognitive and sensory functions. Challenging logic, magicians intentionally exploit how their audiences think. Their illusions force us to reconsider our environment and how we interact with it. Other Ways of Knowing is a visual representation of magical performances designed to promote uncertainty in the viewer’s understanding of what they see.
When considering the magician’s techniques, I questioned where magic occurs. Is it found in every trick the magician performs, or is found in the minds of the audience who interpret the performance? Do these same audience members continue to engage with the effect of the magic once the trick has been revealed to them? Or is the magic in not knowing? How can these ideas be explored visually?
The magician’s success revolves around the act of concealment and the timing of the reveal.
Other Ways of Knowing attempts to mirror this process by presenting a range of approaches of presentation and interaction. I put a great emphasis on the importance of context and presentation. Whenever the viewer encounters the work, I intend for elements of ‘misdirection’ and ‘trickery’ to be built into the form and design.
My practice is highly experimental and draws on a wide range of resources and source materials. I use a mixture of found imagery, archival photographs and my own constructed images to make my work, bringing these elements together in a form of exploration and storytelling to test what we see and how the unseen can be visualised.
All images: © Alexandra Lethbridge, Other Ways Of Knowing 2016
You can see more work by Alexandra Lethbridge in her Shutter Hub portfolio, here.