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  1. #1
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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    PhD on Photography

    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...sp?ArtistID=28.

    An excellent obituary (in French): http://www.ledevoir.com/culture/arts...raphe-john-max

    A collection of materials on Max : http://aphelis.net/john-max-canadian...her-1937-2011/
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  2. #2
    zsas's Avatar
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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. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Hardy-Vallée View Post
    Oh, and it doesn't guarantee you a job, either!
    There's much truth in that!

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

  4. #4
    MattKing's Avatar
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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?
    Matt

    “Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”

    Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2

  5. #5
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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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.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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  6. #6
    Photo Engineer's Avatar
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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. #7
    Robert Hall's Avatar
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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.
    Robert Hall
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    Technology is not a panacea. It alone will not move your art forward. Only through developing your own aesthetic - free from the tools that create it - can you find new dimension to your work.

  8. #8
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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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. #9
    Bruce Osgood's Avatar
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    That's impressive. I wish you the best.

  10. #10

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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!

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