PhD on Photography

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Michel Hardy-Vallée, Sep 7, 2011.

  1. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    First, a little bit of grammar.

    To do a PhD "in" photography is something rare, since Fine Arts diplomas (BFA and MFA), being practice-based diplomas, are usually terminal at the Master's level. I know of a few photographer friends who went on to a hybrid PhD later on, combining Art History and photographic practice, but they are few. Some universities have just begun to offer Fine Arts PhD.

    For my part, I am about to start a "on" type of diploma this Fall. My topic is photography.

    I have been accepted at Concordia University in Montreal in the Art History PhD program (an inter-university program, mixing students from other major universities in the province).

    My thesis project is a critical appreciation of Canadian photographer John Max, who untwisted this mortal coil in May of this year.

    There are plenty of things to say about Max, but I think the most important ones are: first, though he was recognized as one of the great (by people like Robert Frank, no less), there is very little published material about him, and no book of his pictures is in print; second, his work is an important landmark in the use of fiction and narration in photography. Finally, he is still very readable today, and worth a serious look.

    It's a change for me, from a disciplinary point of view, since my BA and my MA are both in English, but it's nevertheless a very coherent continuation of my MA work on Graphic Novels. I moved from literature, to graphic narratives, to fiction and narration in photography!

    There's a long way to go between now and getting that thesis out, and many, many things can change until then, but what I think is the most extraordinary thing right now is to be on that path, wherever it may lead.

    Doing a PhD is often the kind of thing that is sorted in the "maybe" category, and can stay forever on the back burner. It's also a big elephant in one's life, and competes hard for your energies. Oh, and it doesn't guarantee you a job, either! But at least, it's a "now" reality for me.

    I think I owe a shout out to the whole APUG community, among others, for having helped to nurture my interest in photography over the years, both as a practice and as an object of study. Yes, we keep wondering why our developer came out purple out of the tank, and which film is sharper when enlarged to 16x20, but I prefer to think of APUG as the rare photographic forum that truly cares about the art. Not just the hobby, the gear acquisition syndrome, and the prosumer, but really about the meaning and the expression, the history and future.

    I will try to pass on interesting tidbits from the experience as they go along, should any of you be curious on the academic outlook on photography.


    Some references:

    The Stephen Bulger Gallery has good info on Max and a selection of photographs:
    http://www.bulgergallery.com/dynamic/fr_artist.asp?ArtistID=28.

    An excellent obituary (in French): http://www.ledevoir.com/culture/arts-visuels/322840/deces-du-photographe-john-max

    A collection of materials on Max : http://aphelis.net/john-max-canadian-photographer-1937-2011/
     
  2. zsas

    zsas Member

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    How exciting! Thanks for sharing and I concur that Apug is more than a technical resource and more of a community of individuals that share the love of photography as an art and its history.

    I wish you the best in your studies!
     
  3. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    There's much truth in that!

    Good luck and try to develop a good relationship with your supervisor.
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Good luck Michel. I'll follow with interest anything you decide to share about your new academic journey.

    Will you be writing it in English, or in French?

    Oh and I just read through the materials you linked to - it appears the subject of your dissertation died leaving 1500 exposed but undeveloped rolls of film!

    Do you know if there is any move afoot to develop them?
     
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Matt;

    I've heard that the negatives are safe, but didn't hear of particular plans as of now.

    I'll be writing in English, since that's the language with which I did all my previous academic work.

    Also, thanks to the others for their kind words! My supervisor is well-known and respected, and the first year so far (pre-admission) has been good.
     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Congratulations Michel and best wishes.

    You may be interested to hear that they graduate about 25 PhDs in photography ranging from art to history to engineering from Japanese universities. Chiba is one of the main schools there to do so. In fact, there is also a sub Ministerial level in their government on photography. One of their "investigators" was Prof. Dr. Souichi Kubo who visited the US for one year to study photographic education in the US. His conclusion was that our best MS program was not up to even their BS program in overall studies. IDK if he studied education in Canada. This was in the 80s.

    PE
     
  7. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I don't know if that's changed a lot since then either, PE.

    Best of luck and learning with the new degree, MHV.
     
  8. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Go for it Michel. It's something I've thought about doing since returning to University again after many years break and studying Industrial Archaeology and then an doing an MA in Photography. It's much more of a commitment as you get older but is also very rewarding.

    Ian
     
  9. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    That's impressive. I wish you the best.
     
  10. Pasto

    Pasto Member

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    Congradulations Michel! I'm in the process of completing a BFA (photography) at Concordia, and really think it's a fine place to study. I'm a late commer to academic photography but having a great time. Hope you enjoy yourself as much as I am!
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Good luck , I admire you for going for this, I wish that I had more formal training in photography.
     
  12. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    How very interesting. What a fascinating man to study. Bonne chance!
     
  13. CGW

    CGW Member

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  14. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    congrats - concordia is my alma mater... I hope it's as good a school as it used to be. Who's your supervisor (if you don't mind the inquiry)?
     
  15. Jedidiah Smith

    Jedidiah Smith Member

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    That's really awesome! And...a lot of work. :wink: Congrats on getting accepted, and here's to hoping things go well for you in the studies!
     
  16. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    That is quite a lot to bite off and chew. I admire that.

    The only PhD in photography that I have known was a curator for a major museum. It is quite something to achieve. My Belgian professor of French in college responded to the question of "why are you getting a PhD in French?" with "because they can never take that away from me." Learned a lot from that.

    Good luck. And thanks for introducing John Max to me. Never heard of him before. I hope you keep us apprised of your progress. I would love to read your thesis when you are through.
     
  17. Krockmitaine

    Krockmitaine Member

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    Wish you the best Michel.
    Have made a quick search and you have a good subject of study. Keep us posted on your discoveries.
    I've found this little into to the film John Max, A portrait here for those interested.

    Marc
     
  18. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I have never seen degrees in photographic science in Canadian universities. Most people probably cross the border from an eng. or chem. degree into an american university.

    My own discipline being art history, the courses are administered by the faculty of Fine Arts.

    Doesn't mean I'm not looking to find ways to get to Rochester to visit the George Eastman House, and make a little Kodak pilgrimage!
     
  19. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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  20. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Michel;

    You had better visit EK soon or it will be an art history project the way things seem to be going. :sad:

    PE
     
  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Hearty congratulations Michel, one of my sons has a PhD he tells me he tries to avoid the title Dr. because at parties people keep hauling their shirts up and showing him their operation scars which he says is very entertaining especially the female ones, but he has to explain he's not a medical doctor he's a physicist :D
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Michel,

    Congratulations and good luck with your endeavor!

    - Thomas
     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Good luck with your project, Michel.

    You've got a well-defined topic, which is important, because many start, fewer finish. Think about writing something that will convert easily to publishable form--a complete catalogue of his works, for instance, if one doesn't already exist, or a work of criticism with illustrations that might be interesting to non-specialists.
     
  24. naeroscatu

    naeroscatu Subscriber

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    I feel the same way about APUG, Michel. Wish you good luck in your academic career!