Capturing Faith: Yousuf Karsh and the Photographic Representation of Religion

This project explores the photographic work of Yousuf Karsh in the 1950s and 1960s, with a particular focus on his images with religious themes and subject matter. In this period, Karsh collaborated with the American Archbishop and media star, J. Fulton Sheen on a series of publications, and took publicity photographs for movies including The Ten Commandments and Sodom and Gomorrah. Funded by SSHRCC (2011-2015), this project builds upon my earlier research on the body and religion in early twentieth century Canada and the United States.

Photography and Public Memory in Prairie Canada

This project traces the collection, display, and use of historic photographs in the 20th century, exploring the shift from private to public investments in photographs as usable ‘sites of memory.’ I have published a number of articles on this theme, but the book-length manuscript in preparation focuses on Ernest Brown and Gladys Reeves, whose collection of remarkable photographs from the turn of the century continues to circulate in multiple contexts, offering competing narratives of history. Funded by SSHRCC (2004-2009).

Advertising, Identity, & Visual Culture

Recently I have started to explore the world of advertising, corporate identity, and visual culture in the 1950s and 1960s. I am interested in corporate collections of advertising photographs and the development of a sense of corporate identity and image-making. This started with a study of Yousuf Karsh’s commissioned work for Canadair, and has now expanded to other corporate collections of photographs. I am fascinated by the editorial processes, the crop marks, the reframings and remakings of the photograph to suit the new attention to image and visual culture that emerges in the postwar period. Occasionally I even write about non-photographic topics, and an article on the Hudson’s Bay Company and corporate identity is currently under review.

Putting Photographs into Place

A thread that runs through much of my research is the general theme of ‘place’ and photography. Here I’m not simply interested in the question of spatial representation, but also the very notion of finding a ‘place’ for photographs — on the page, in the archive, on the shelf, and on computer screens or smartphones. This is not a specific project as much as it’s a theme that I work through in many different contexts. It also allows me to connect my historical work to a broader engagement with contemporary visual culture, communication studies, and memory studies. I have a forthcoming chapter in an edited collection that explores the ‘placing’ of photographs in both digital and analogue forms. Funded by a Carleton University Research Achievement Award (2012).

Rideau Timescapes App

The Rideau Timescapes App is a smartphone application that delivers historical photographs of the Rideau Canal to the user’s phone “in place”. For more on this project, see rideau.timescapes.ca and the CCPH website. Funded by the Department of Heritage, Canada Interactive Fund (2011-2012). The app was awarded the CHA Public History Prize in 2012. I have posted a recent update on the status of this project.

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