Séminaire “Les Nords” Université Paris Nanterre – 24 février à 17h – Gwen Cressman

“Framing the land: northern landscapes revisited” par Gwen Cressman, de l’Université de Strasbourg (UR 2325 SEARCH),

Séminaire transversal du CREA “Les Nords,”  en présentiel à l’Université Paris Nanterre le jeudi 24 février 2022 à 17h dans la salle de séminaire n°2 du Bâtiment Max Weber (W).

The representation of landscapes in the form of drawings, engravings, paintings and photographs has been integral to the process of nation building and the construction of national identities in both Canada and the United States. Survey photography in both countries in the mid to late 1800s largely contributed to document Canadian and American expansionist endeavors, to ascertain the documentary and scientific role that photography would play in that expansion and to foster a sense of national belonging and of Anglo-Saxon supremacy which would also find its expression in landscape painting. Despite variations, T. J. Jackson Lears defends the idea that “the two countries’ cultures converged in the common mythology of westward expansion”, with, for Canada, a structuring “wildness” located in the North, rather than just in the West (Lears, in Goldfarb, 2009: 21). While the photographers engaged in the geographical and topographical expeditionary missions in Canada and the United States had a particular interest in framing the land as the epitome of the sublime landscape, the Group of Seven painters of the 1920s and 1930s later sought to express the essence of Canada’s northern identity through the celebration of a mythical wilderness. This manner of framing the land implied that what was kept outside of the frame or conversely included within its bounds, was often informed by hierarchical relations and colonialist visions of the land. I will be asking how these earlier forms of framing continue to inform the ways in which contemporary photographers such as Yin-me Joon and Lorraine Gilbert offer to visualize and revisit the Canadian landscape today. What narratives of place and identity emerge from contemporary photographic practices around the land?

Reference: Goldfard, Hilliard T. Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape, 1860-1918, Montreal: Museum of Fine Arts, 2009.


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