Defamiliarization or ostranenie (остранение) is the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar.

Victor Shklovsky notes that as perception becomes habitual, it assumes automatic functioning. This habituation gives rise to life lived unconsciously. Automatic habituation ensures that reality is mirrored in our conscious minds only as it appears symbolically. We cease to see reality as it exists in its entirety, and instead lived experience is viewed as recognizable only in its barest, baseline characteristics. Shklovsky asserts that experiencing life unconsciously is the same as not experiencing at all. Shklovsky quotes from the Diary of Leo Tolstoy, 1897, who wrote: “If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.”

The accumulation of unrecorded life, reckoned as nothing, is devoured in the force of habituation. Shklovsky asserts that the act of creation, particularly pertaining to works denoted as art, “exists that one may recover the sensation of life, it exists to make one feel the thing, to make the stone stony.” The accomplishment of such a transformation is termed the process of defamiliarization, or Ostranenie, in Shklovsky’s native Russian. It is the enhancement of the familiar, the representation of what-is, presented in a radically new or strange way so at to appear foreign. As the literary theorist Frederic Jameson wrote, the defamiliarized occurrence is “…that moment in which a habitual perception is suddenly renewed, and we see a thing freshly in a kind of perceptual tension with our older mode of thinking about it, experiencing both identity and difference at the same instant.” (from ‘“Beneath the Pavement, the Beach:”  Reflexive Intellectualism and the Performance of Disruption,’  Kascher, Stephia M., 2007)


American Sociologist C. Wright Mills observed: “The independent artist and intellectual are among the few remaining personalities equipped to resist and to fight the stereotyping and consequent death of genuinely living things.  Fresh perception now involves the capacity to continually unmask and to smash the stereotypes of vision and intellect with which modern communications [modern systems of representation] swamp us.”

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creators of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Sir Cecil Beaton



  • “One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.” ~ Joseph Campbell


  • “Photography [Art and the Creative Act] is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph [one work], or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.” ~ W. Eugene Smith


  • “Awareness requires a rupture with the world we take for granted; then old categories of experience are called into question and revised.” ~ Shoshana Zuboff


Photographic & Journalisitc Themes, in no particular order:  


  • Reality
  • Defamiliarization
  • The Strange
  • The Ordinary
  • Identity
  • Transition
  • Play
  • Language
  • Expression
  • Exhibition
  • Voyeurism
  • Feminism
  • Gender Constructs
  • Conceptions of the Artist
  • Conceptions of Motherhood
  • Living and Creating with a Child
  • Lifestyles
  • Imperfection
  • Alternative Ways of Being
  • Conceptual Collage
  • Art and Artistic Endeavors
  • Lenses
  • Perspectives
  • Transience
  • Humanity
  • Awareness

On Acknowledging Curator and Artistic Bias:

A caveat.  I acknowledge that curator and artistic bias is a given and a purely objective stance impossible.  What you find here has been filtered through my  particular lens and juxtaposed  in a myriad of ways. What you find here reflects me – my point-of-view, my perspective and experiences and the natural condition of the human subjective stance.  I participate in a small but eclectic collective, however one that will still never do justice to the beautfiul multitude of experiential differences that shape the filters each and every one of us percieves our world through.  Nonetheless, I believe that there is a great advantage to be had in acknowledging this.  By admitting bias and subjectivity I am given room to play within my perspectives – to shift and shape them – pivot the center so that multiple standpoints are represented and new patterns and forms are able to emerge from out of my own partiality. I play with our world – defamiliarize and broadcast the expansive – and it (the world in all its glory) in turn shapes me.

“We can escape the commonplace only by manipulating it, controlling it, thrusting it into our dreams or surrendering it to the free play of our subjectivity.”  ~ Raoul Vaneigem


Regarding the Assorted Essays I post here:

There are three overarching categories, taken from larger projects I am working on:

1.  Personal Essays

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” 
–Virginia Woolf from The Moment and Other Essays (1947)

2.  excerpts from ‘Notes from the Lost Generation:  A Manifesto’

3.  excerpts from ‘Nostalgia:  Meditations of Physicality & Geography’

© Stephia Madelyne Kascher

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