The Photographic Turn: Architecture, Truth, and Modern Vision
Since its public unveiling in 1839, photography's apparent truthfulness has been deployed in support of fictions, thereby grounding practices such as restoration and ornamental décor in ostensibly objective discourse. The spectacle of the assertion of truth in architectural practice through photography and analogous media such as casting, perspective drawing, and iron construction provide the subject of this presentation, which will elucidate photographs' rise to preeminence among representations, as well as their role in the rise of a modern, fragmentary visual regime. Focusing upon the nineteenth-century, but drawing upon multiple examples from contemporary practice, it will explore the practitioner's apparently conflicted desire, on the one hand, to underscore the quality of truthfulness in the architectural photograph, and, on the other, to allow for the creative deployment of the subjective architectural imaginary.
Peter Sealy is an architectural historian who studies the ways in which architects constructively engage with reality through indexical media such as photography. He holds architecture degrees from the McGill University School of Architecture and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he was a Frank Knox fellow. He recently completed his PhD at Harvard on the emergence of a photographic visual regime in nineteenth-century architectural publications, seen through the lens of truth — in both architecture and its representations.
Peter’s research on Émile Zola and the immateriality of 19th century iron buildings was recently published in Function and Fantasy: Iron Architecture in the Long Nineteenth Century (Routledge), a volume he co-edited with Paul Dobraszczyk. His articles have appeared in Abitare, Border Crossings, Canadian Architect, Domus, Harvard Design Magazine, The Journal of Architecture, and Oris, and in several edited volumes, including Blackwell’s Companion to the History of Architecture. Previously, he worked at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) on exhibitions including Actions (2008) and Journeys (2010). Recently, he studied the resurgence of model photography and photomontage in contemporary architectural representation as a Mellon Researcher at the CCA.