Whisky and Photography

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Had quite an interesting exchange on Facebook in the last couple of days, which started off with me posting a picture of one of my favourite Scotch Whiskies. This led to the idea of combining a print swap with a whisky tasting.

Paul Clements: …  the idea came from the David Hurn exhibition. https://www.ffoton.wales/news-items/2017/5/david-hurn-swaps

Paul Clements: It’s funny how ‘Whisky’ inspires conversations around Photography!! Thinking about it, l think Barthes would have appreciated a wee dram … Sontag, not so …

Mick Yates:I imagine Derrida would want to split the Whisky into its constituent chemicals before deciding what it tastes like.

Ashley Rose: Water, barley, yeast. Job done!

Mick Yates: You forgot the apparatus of Scotch making … thanks, Vilém.

Ashley Rose: Aye, but that is nae a constant while the ingredients are immutable by law. So in fairness, perhaps I should also have included time as that too is a key ingredient as it were. No disrespect to Flusser though.

Mick Yates: Time … Derrida said that punctum is a duration … very appropriate to Scotch … part of the apparatus?

Ashley Rose: Yes,

Ashley Rose: How far can we go? It is the ‘Decisive Moment’ when the whisky reaches the tongue that we become aware of the thing itself.

Mick Yates: Rubbish. The Decisive Moment is when you first see the bottle.

Ashley Rose: Meer indexicality. There is no sense of the real thing itself and it is probably seeing the price rather than the bottle itself.

Ashley Rose: Just seeing a bottle for the first time is a manifestation of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and akin to Schrödinger’s cat. The whisky is good and bad (is that possible?) at the same time. And as soon as you open the bottle, it is no longer what it was in the bottle. It has changed by the act of closer examination and it will never again be what what it was the instant the stopper was first inserted. Now there’s some thoughts to get drunk over.

Mick Yates: When we so love a whisky that it’s out of this world, wouldn’t that great, dour Scot David Hume tell us, that’s no miracle, as it happened in the real world of experience?

Ashley Rose: >Recapping, this thread has worked in Derrida, Barthes, Sontag, Cartier-Bresson, Flusser, Hume, Hurn, Heisenberg, Schrodinger and Paul Clements. You have yet to work in Wittgenstein and I Bill Jay. This could go on awhile.

Mick Yates: Ash, that’s easy. Bill Jay would say cut that academic stuff and just enjoy the Scotch, using your experience to judge how good it is. And Wittgenstein would say it’s only called Scotch because we drink it.

Mick Yates: Just realised we missed Martha Rosler … drinking Scotch is a political act.

Ashley Rose: Ah but that is not a war I am bringing into my living room. It is rather a love fest. There room on my shelf and in my heart for Islay, Highland, Speyside, Orkney, and even a lowly Lowland whisky. So is it political or is it a great arbitor; something that can even bring a Tory, Labour, LibDem or MEP to agreement? On the other hand maybe you are correct and that we claim it as Scotch Whisky in the face of all the other single malt whiskies in the world is indeed political.

Paul Clements: … and not forgetting a little ‘Mutual Aid’ from Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin … always good to work collectively for the common good!

Ashley Rose: You got me Paul Clements with Kropotkin. Gonna have to look him up though can guess a bit from your follow up comment. Sounds like my credo ‘cooperate to graduate’ may be in his lexicon.

Mick Yates: Ashley … you an anarcho-communist, then? Well, well … explains a lot …


Barthes, Roland. 1980. Camera Lucida. New York: Hill & Wang.

Cartier-Bresson, Henri.1952. The Decisive Moment. 2014 Ed. Göttingen: Steidl.

Derrida, Jacques, 2010. A Conversation on Photography (edited by G. Richter). Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Flusser, Vilém. 1983 (Trans. 2000). Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion Books.

Hume, David. 1777 (Ed. Selby-Bigge, L.A., 1888. 2010 edition). Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Jay, Bill & Hurn, David. 1996 (2008 Ed.). On Being a Photographer. Anacortes: Lens Work Publishing.

Rosler, Martha. 2004. Decoys and Disruptions. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Sontag, Susan. 1977. On Photography. New York: Anchor Books.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 1953. Philosophical Investigations (Trans. G.E.M. Anscombe). Oxford: Blackwell.

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