The Documentary Media Research Centre, is located in the School of Image Arts. Its aim is to develop new scholarship and research/production methodologies in all forms of contemporary documentary practice.
The DMRC focuses on documentary as the “creative treatment of actuality”, as John Grierson defined it, with an emphasis on the two terms: “creative” meaning current, multidisciplinary and multiplatform forms of representation and “actuality” as a reference to subject matter that is discovered in the situated conditions of the world. The term “creative” is also used to signify the importance of creative activity or research-creation methodologies for practitioners who are members of the DMRC. One of the unique aspects of the DMRC is the fostering of research and creative activity across a diverse range of media, including film, photography and new media.
The DMRC is a research centre for developing new ideas and new creative work in contemporary documentary media. It gathers resources and supports programming to enhance the scholarly, research and creative activities of faculty affiliated with the MFA Program in Documentary Media in the School of Image Arts.
The DMRC is a multidisciplinary centre: it combines both theory and practice, or scholarly and creative activities, all grounded in a wide range of established academic disciplines and research fields. These include: Documentary Studies, Film and Photography Studies, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Digital and Media Arts, Anthropology, Ethnography, Geographic Analysis and Critical Topography. The DMRC functions as a contemporary documentary workshop across media and disciplines. The DMRC aims to disseminate the results of its research activities, by means of conferences, publications, curatorial projects and exhibitions.
The following faculty members are the founding researchers of the Documentary Media Research Centre.
Cammaer is a filmmaker, curator and scholar. Her research focuses on the revival of microcinema, notably how current consumer friendly technology and mobile devices challenge the expectations and definitions of documentary film. Her other documentary research interests include archival films, home movies, travel films, eco-cinema and documenting nature, landscape and climate change.
Fitzpatrick is a photographer, curator and writer. His research interests include a study of documentary works created for gallery presentations, the photographic representation of the nuclear era, visual responses to contemporary militarism and the post-Cold War history, memory and mobility of the Berlin Wall. He is a member of the Atomic Photographers Guild, an international group of documentary photographers and artists dedicated to making visible all aspects of the nuclear era.
Lessard’s current research project concerns images of China made by filmmakers and photographers who have documented the great socio-cultural and environmental changes China has undergone within the last twenty years or so. He has published extensively on the interrelations between fiction and documentary in film and photography, and he has given conference papers on the topic in North America, Europe, and Asia. An active photographer, his projects can be found at: www.brunolessard.com
McCormick is a photographer, an independent curator and writer on contemporary art and photography. Her work examines commemorative sites, revealing narratives and social histories embedded in landscapes. Her current project The Ash Garden: Hiroshima Under “A Rain of Ruin,” examines narratives related to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima through a close reading of documents, monuments, and sites. In 2010, in conjunction with Border Country at Gallery 44 McCormick hosted colloquia at Ryerson University entitled Experiences in Witnessing: Artistic Practices at the Intersection of Presence and Testimony.
Recent projects have involved investigating and re-presenting archival material to new audiences in the visual and performing arts. Sixty Years of Marlboro Music: A History in Pictures and Film was on display at the Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts in New York as well as other locations during 2011-2012, and Black Star Subject: Canada, a collaboration with media artist Pierre Tremblay, was exhibited on the Salah J. Bachir Media Wall at the Ryerson Image Centre in 2014. A selection of his critical writings is available imagearts.ryerson.ca/dsnyder.
Tremblay is an artist whose work has been exhibited for the past twenty years and appears in a number of public and private collections in Canada and France. Tremblay’s artistic practice over the years has moved through different media. His interest in moving images and sound questions the world in flux and how we see and perceive. In recent years, he has revisited the traditional art genres of portraiture and landscape. His latest exploration questions the traditional genre of landscape by creating/perceiving multiple moments at once.
By facilitating and promoting the research produced by its members, the DMRC aims to contribute to a better understanding of contemporary documentary practices.
Travelling Shots is a research-creation project that looks at the impact of mobile media on travel experiences. It explores the ways in which mobile images are contributing to the formation of a new camera vision and offer an alternative to hegemonic forms in documentary. This project is in collaboration with Max Schleser (Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia).
Freedom Rocks is a collaborative project started in 2003 that documents the post-1989 movement of the Berlin Wall. No longer activated by Cold War associations of fear and dread, the project has evolved to depict the everyday life of the Berlin Wall and challenges assumptions that the Wall’s history ended when the Cold War did.
As more and more of Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s hibakusha – literally, “explosion-affected people” – pass on, silent witnesses hold vigil here and there throughout both cities: the Hibaku Jumoku or A-bombed trees, which returned from blackened stumps left in the wake of those nuclear holocausts.
Containing over 60 photographs, the series was shot at night in 2015-16 in four Chinese megacities: Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing, and Guangzhou. Inspired by Brassaï’s seminal Paris la nuit [Paris by Night] (1933), “China by Night” focuses on three elements in Chinese urban environments: urban villages where migrant workers live; the juxtaposition of the old and the new denoting urban China’s ongoing transformations; and the visual archiving of older parts of town.
A photographic study of workers across Canada by photographer Martin Weinhold, curated by Don Snyder. Recorded over a decade, from 2006 to 2016, the photo documentary WorkSpace Canada shows people who pursue a wide variety of occupations through intimate portraits, depicting both their work environment and activity.
An installation project that is composed of several short videos made while swimming in public pools with a GoPro camera since 2012. Each short poetic documentary is crafted to represent the experience of swimming, including what is characteristic for each pool in terms of its architecture and visitors.
The DMRC organizes various documentary research events such as conferences, symposia and lectures.
The “critical” in critical topography is a method of elaboration and iteration as argued within and about a place. It allows us to raise questions as to how place matters in political, historical, aesthetic and social contexts. More than an object of study, landscape is conceived as a dynamic human investment that points beyond itself, and challenges researchers to find new terms to investigate locales imbued with social meaning, identity and site-specific subjectivity.
The symposium provided an opportunity to define and ‘workshop’ foundational concepts in the study of this emergent approach to the subject of landscape, which was explored in a series of panel segments and related keynote presentations on the following six topics:
Visual and Literary Landscapes
Landscape in Motion: Ecology, Climate, Carbon
The Memnopolis through the Commons
Forensic Landscape and the Nuclear Paradigm
Paradigms of Critical Topography
Conference Program is available here: brochureCT11
Some of the Critical Topography conference participants.
The DMRC was one of the organizing partners of the 22nd Visible Evidence Conference which took place in Toronto August 19 to 22, 2015. The last day, August 22nd, took place at Ryerson. The conference ended with a key-note by Artist-Curator John Akomfrah titled In The Shadows of the Real.
Kahana’s lecture focused on John Huston’s 1946 film Let There Be Light in an historical and archival context. Kahana considered the role of American documentary film culture in justifying the speaking subject of shock and trauma. He demonstrated how the history in and of John Huston’s U.S. Army Signal Corps documentary Let There Be Light helps illuminate critical debates about narration, narrative, and performance in non-fiction cinema, and in what Bill Nichols called “the voice of documentary.”
Hany Al-Moliya & Brendan Bannon
After many of his relatives were killed in Homs, Hany Al-Moliya, now 21 years-old and legally blind, fled with the remaining members of his family to a refugee camp in Lebanon. There he met eminent photojournalist Brendan Bannon who was part of a UN refugee program for children in refugee camps, giving them voice and an opportunity to tell their stories through their own photography and writing. Able to see through his camera, Hany shared with the world his experiences of refugee life. Hany and Brendan visited Ryerson to talk about their experiences, and Hany shared his images.
Co-sponsored by the Centre for Free Expression and the Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC).
In contrast to her life‐long project of documenting members of the black LGBTI community of South Africa, for this body of work Muholi turns the camera on herself. She presented black and white self‐portraits taken while travelling in South Africa, America and Europe, Somnyama Ngonyama (meaning ‘Hail, the Dark Lioness’) confronts the politics of race and pigment in the photographic archive, while commenting on specific events in South Africa’s political history, such as the Marikana massacre.
Zanele Muholi was in Toronto to receive Ryerson University’s 2016 Outstanding International Alumni Award as a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media in 2009.
This bilingual conference was the 6th edition of the Toronto/Montreal/Lille biennial of artistic exchange. Titled The Inventions of Light / Les Inventions de la Lumière, the conference focused on what light makes possible in the parallel realms of perception and creative imagination. The overall goal of the three-day conference was to explore the “inventions of light” collectively and to develop an interdisciplinary approach to the many inventions that light has generated in painting, photography, cinema, animation, and digital arts.
“This film is a purposefully unsettling but ultimately encouraging global overview of efforts by activists to push back against corporate polluters and ameliorate climate change.” (Joe Leydon, Variety)
The screening was followed by a discussion with Avi Lewis, one of Canada’s most controversial media personalities. As a local news reporter, music television host, debate show, moderator, documentary filmmaker, and public speaker, he has been creating space for more radical voices in mainstream media for 25 years. He is the director of the feature documentary This Changes Everything (2015), inspired by the 2014 book by Naomi Klein.
Co-sponsored by the Centre for Free Expression and the Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC).
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