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Student Showcase Archive

Julian Lass

PhD Work

PhD work

How a Text and Image Practice Might Create an (Uncontrolled) Time for Critical Thinking

How, exactly, does one come to know what one is supposed to know? The figure of the narrator as seeking, momentarily achieving, and then losing grasp on the world, dominates the writer W.G. Sebald's work. Image and text are a palimpsest where the past reveals itself in the present again and again. More than once Sebald's narrator figure becomes so self absorbed that he is oblivious to his surroundings; only later is he able to recall events. Frequently this comes from a position of immobility. Unrecognised, or barely recognised perceptions and memories gesture to something that cannot be grasped and no discernible causes can be found, only coincidences and chance encounters revealed, often through sleight of hand.

Yet this later making sense of something is always carefully constructed, always moving the reader/viewer away from conventional ways of reading and viewing, and opening a time for critical thinking. This (uncontrolled) time could be tied more generally to distaste against procedures for controlling time, an allegory for certain social and economic processes that have entered the realm of art and literature. Then again, the liberating art that seeks redress in slowness, or montage, on non-linear forms, is itself as problematic as the mainstream it challenges.

The research starts with photography and writing and makes a series of journeys following in the footsteps of (and at times being followed by) another. It comprises essays and photographs that explore the presumed linear unfolding of text, and the collecting, selecting and discarding of material crucial to the creative process. With consideration for Sebald's prose, poems, essays and interviews, it asks how this process of poetic thinking undoubtedly wanders off the track, exposes itself to chance encounter, and thus opens up the possibility up an (uncontrolled) time for critical thinking.



  • Julian Lass
  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Photography, 2013–2020

  • ‘I’m interested in how words and images manipulate us, and how, at least to a certain degree, this is inherent in language itself.’

    Julian Lass is studying for an MPhil/PhD at the Royal College of Art. He takes photographs and writes for, among others, Geographical Magazine, Telegraph Magazine, Times, and British Journal of Photography. He is an associate lecturer in photography at Norwich University of the Arts and Southampton University.



    MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography [Distinction]

    Dissertation: ‘What have we here? A man or a fish?’

    University of Edinburgh

    MA English Literature [First Class]

    Class Medal for highest marks in year

    Dissertation: ‘Doctor Faustus and Nietzsche’

    Arts University at Bournemouth

    FdA Photography