Martha Langford (Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University in Montreal)
New national histories of photography are appearing. Some are recuperative, supplementing the canon with missing or underestimated figures. Others are methodological retellings, refreshing the canon with new historiographical perspectives. Some are bent on justice, adapting postcolonial, decolonizing, or settler-colonial theory to the writing of counter-histories. The Canadian situation is somewhat unique. There is no authoritative story to retell, as a national history of photography has never been written. It exists in the collective imagination, based on a substantial repertoire of texts by archivists, curators, critics, theorists, and photographers. Never consolidated – never imbued with canonical authority – the idea of such an official history nevertheless invites reconsideration in the form of counter-histories. This paper considers the entanglement of history and counter-history in photographic studies, posing the deceptively simple question: which is which?
History and Theory of Photography Research Centre
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