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A Definition of ‘Disphotic’


Two divers preparing to explore the wreck of the RMS Lusitania, 1935

The word ‘Disphotic’ from the Greek dis- (apart, lacking) and photic (light) is an archaic oceanographic term referring to a layer of the ocean lying between the ‘euphotic’ or well lit and ‘aphotic’ or unlit reaches of the sea. Starting at around two hundred metres below sea level, the depth of the disphotic zone means little sunlight penetrates, resulting in a state of permanent twilight or half-light.

I adopted it as a name because it seemed like an apt metaphor for my experiences of reading about photography. As a field it seemed often poorly illuminated or explained by practitioners, who invariably relied instead on specialist writers, theorists and critics to examine and interpret what they do. Those writers in turn often seemed to write largely for their own kind, obscuring important debates in language which often alienated the very photographers who had the most to gain from them. To both make photographs and critically examine them, as I try to do, is to be regarded as something of an oddity.

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