Phil Bergerson: A Retrospective | Book Launch & Roundtable

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New Date: Thursday, February 25th, 7 – 8:30 pm

Registration for Zoom Event is here

 Phil Bergerson, Apache Junction, Arizona, 2018

With this book, we have the opportunity to read about, see, and understand Bergerson’s ongoing photographic odyssey. Insightful essays by fellow travellers Don Snyder and Peter Higdon offer a historical and critical context, letting us meet the artist at work and the multitudes he contains: the seemingly limitless energy, the off-beat sense of humour, the mix of warmth and edginess, all of the ingredients heading to one place and one place only. Recently Bergerson replaced his aging camper van with a newer, more roadworthy model. Should an intrepid passenger today finally ask him, “Are we there yet?,” I think I finally know what his answer would be: “We are, because we aren’t.”

—Robert Burley

The Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC) in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University is pleased to host the launch of PHIL BERGERSON: A Retrospective. Phil Bergerson has photographed and exhibited internationally for over 50 years and is represented in many prestigious collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Bibliothéque Nationale, Paris, the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, and the Creative Center for Photography, Tucson. His photographs have appeared in The New Yorker, TheNew York Times Magazine, The Walrus, and Toronto Life Magazine among others. In 2004, Bergerson’s first book, Shards of America was released by Quantuck Lane Press, New York, to rave reviews. Writers who understand the role of “visual thinking” have been drawn to Bergerson’s work. After examining his first book on America, Annie Proulx wrote: “If I were teaching short story writing, the only textbook I would assign would be your collection of photographs.” In 2014 American Artifacts, his critically acclaimed book, was published by BlackDog Press, London, with essays by Margaret Atwood and Nathan Lyons. 

From 1972 to 2006, Bergerson was Professor of Photography at Ryerson University, where he established the influential, International “Kodak Lecture Series.” This provided students the opportunity to meet such practitioners as W. Eugene Smith, Bernice Abbott, Robert Frank, and Mary Ellen Mark and such theorists, historians and curators as Rudolf Arnheim, Allan Sekula, Peter Bunnell, Helmut Gernsheim, John Szarkowski and Nathan Lyons. He also created the first International Symposium on Photographic Theory and organized “Canadian Perspectives,” a National Conference on Photography. In 2019, his personal archive was acquired by Library and Archives Canada. He continues to work on representations of American cultural artifacts. He is represented in North America by the Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto.  

Please join us for the launch of PHIL BERGERSON: A Retrospective and roundtable discussion with contributors Phil Bergerson, Peter Higdon and Don Snyder, moderated by Katy McCormick. 

Spread, pages 44-45

Daylight Books, North Carolina:

      Phil Bergerson’s photographs are poetic statements full of irony and pathos encapsulating this empathetic neighbour’s Canadian insight into the mysteries of our complex American nation. Using the traditions of Evans, Frank and Lyons, Bergerson constructs found, poetic fragments into powerful sequential ensembles that metaphorically express something genuine and meaningful about our country.

Essays by Peter Higdon and Don Snyder with Foreword by Robert Burley. 

Design coordinator: James McCrorie, 220 pages, 140 colour photographs, 13 x 10.5 inches.

The book is available through Stephen Bulger Gallery pickup or delivery, 416 504 0575.

Registered guests will receive 10% discount on $65.00, plus shipping.

Spread, pages 130-131

This retrospective publication, full of new insights and information, will delight those familiar with the photography of Phil Bergerson and seduce those new to his images. The book chronicles the photographer’s early experimentation with film and his brief adventure with performance art in the early 1970s as well as his evolution as an image maker up until today. Describing and contextualizing his varied bodies of work made over a 50 year period, this is an overdue and rich compendium of Bergerson’s artistic contribution and a much needed account of the institutions and individuals who enabled the flourishing of photography as a form of artistic expression in Canada, with a certain focus on Toronto. 

—Ann Thomas, Chief Curator, National Gallery of Canada

Phil Bergerson’s Retrospective Exhibition is on at the Stephen Bulger Gallery until March 27th.

Phil Bergerson, New York, New York, 2018

Participant Bios:

Phil Bergerson (con’t) was born in Toronto in 1947 and began his photography studies at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in 1967. He attended his first regional meeting of the Society of Photographic Education (SPE) at the George Eastman House in fall 1968. In 1970, he began studying painting and printmaking at York University in the fine arts program. In 1972, he was asked to return to Ryerson to teach photography and design. 

Peter Higdon is the Founding Collections Curator of the Ryerson Image Centre, (RIC), Ryerson University. Over a period of thirty-six years, he drove the expansion of its photographs collection through numerous acquisitions, among them the Black Star Collection of photojournalism. Funding accompanying this major donation allowed commencement of a long-sought building project that yielded museum-standard exhibition spaces and a research centre incorporating a print storage vault. He was also instrumental in the RIC’s acquisition of the Berenice Abbott Archive. For ten years he was consultant to graduate students in Ryerson’s collections management program, (FPPCM), and for more than twenty years was coordinator of Ryerson’s Photography Workshop in France. Upon retirement in 2014, the RIC’s Research Centre was named in his honour, and a graduate scholarship established in his name. 

Don Snyder studied photography with Walker Evans at Yale University and with Minor White in the graduate program at MIT. A member of the Documentary Media Research Centre since its founding, Prof. Emeritus Snyder taught photography production, history and theory in the School of Image Arts as well as Media Writing in the Documentary Media MFA program. Recent projects have included an essay for photographer Vincenzo Pietropaolo’s book, Ritual, and the Introduction for In Canadian Workspaces, published by photographer and DMRC member Martin Weinhold. Snyder also designed and curated Weinhold’s exhibition Face to Face with Canada: A Nation at Work, shown at the Ryerson Artspace and later at the German Embassy in Ottawa. His essay for Phil Bergerson: A Retrospective was published in early 2020.

Katy McCormick is associate professor of photography studies in the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University and co-director and a founding member of the Documentary Media Research Centre. She was director of the MFA in Documentary Media from 2014 to 2018. Her photographic work examines commemorative sites, revealing narratives and social histories embedded in landscapes. Her current project, Rooted among the Ashes: The A-Bombed Trees of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, begun in 2008, was recently included in Through Post-atomic Eyes, edited by Claudette Lauzon and John O’Brian.

This event is supported by the Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC). The DMRC develops new scholarship and research/production methodologies in all forms of contemporary documentary practice.  The DMRC disseminates the results of its research activities through conferences, publications, public film screenings, curatorial projects and exhibitions. See:

Registration is on Eventbrite:

Media Contact: Katy McCormick

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On March 2, 2021

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