Alumni Stories - Feargal Fitzpatrick
'There were two key things for me in undertaking the PhD while working full-time. The first was to look at the task realistically. I completed the work half-time over six years, plus a year researching the initial proposal in advance.'
We spoke to Feargal Fitzpatrick about his PhD research project project, a written thesis called The Politics of the Image: Ireland, Landscape and Nineteenth-Century Photography
What is the nature of your research project?
My project examines the politics inherent in photographic imaging of place and space in Ireland. Examining material that, up to now, has been dealt with largely on an empirical or canonical basis, it provides a critical-historical analysis of five separate phases of photographic activity between 1842 and 1897. This was a period during which politics on the island of Ireland was dramatically transformed, while the evolution of photographic technologies was radical in its shift from slow artisanal processes to mass-market industrialised protocols.
The argument is focused on the unstable relationships between photographic representations of place, and Irish manifestations of colonialism, nationalism and capital. Through a contemporary theoretical framework (drawing on Karl Marx, Walter Benjamin, Homi K. Bhabha and Jacques Rancière among others) it argues that photography’s inception represents a rupture in visual culture – producing a crisis in the politics of representation – and that its consequences have been playing out through landscape imaging for 180 years.
What was it was like to undertake a PhD while working?
There were two key things for me in undertaking the PhD while working full-time. The first was to look at the task realistically. I completed the work half-time over six years (plus a year researching the initial proposal in advance) – so simple arithmetic meant that it would require 18-20 hours per week on average for 48 weeks a year. With that established, it was down to putting in the time and hitting the interim deadlines. Secondly, I reminded myself that I volunteered to do it, and that nobody else wants or needs to hear any moaning about it! I was fortunate to have a brilliant supervisor (Professor Colin Graham) and a very patient family, which helped immensely.
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