Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
University of Pittsburgh
Constructed Landscapes: Photography, Empire, and Ecology in the Americas

My dissertation studies the role that photographic media have played in reflecting and shaping environmental histories across the Americas, focusing on photographic landscapes in Mexico, Panama, and Brazil. Building on scholarship developed mostly on North America and on landscape painting, it expands the purview of ecocritical art history in terms of geographic scope and artistic medium. The project considers landscape photography through an ecocritical and ecofeminist lens that underscores the politics embedded in images of nature and the connections between environment, gender, race, and settler colonialism. It explores how photographers in particular captured culturally specific ways of seeing, in other words, the idea of landscape itself. The dissertation is organized around case studies that focus on particular photographic formats: Chapter one centers on photographic panoramas produced by Marc Ferrez (1843–1923) during a key era of Brazilian history that saw the abolition of slavery (1888) and the collapse of Portuguese imperial rule (1889). Chapter two focuses on stereographic photographs made in Panama during the Panama Canal construction (1904–14), proposing that the format of stereography visually shaped the neoimperial narrative of man’s conquest of nature. Chapter three analyzes landscape photography in Mexico through photographic murals crafted by Lola Álvarez Bravo (1907–93) during the 1940s and 1950s, a time of exceptional economic growth and rapid urban development. I argue that Álvarez Bravo's compositions propose a nonteleological view of Mexican history, advancing a critique of triumphal and anthropocentric histories of modernity. Through its transnational approach and expansive timeframe, this project will contribute to a more expansive art history of the Americas that accounts for the environmental histories and modes of ecological knowledge embedded in photographic objects. By basing my research in local archives and on collaborations with local institutions, the project will contribute in form and content to a decolonial research practice.