Concordia University



Martha Langford, PhD

Professor, Art History
Research Chair and Director, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art
Editor-in-chief, Journal of Canadian Art History/Annales d'histoire de l'art canadien

Office: S-EV 3721 
Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex,
1515 St. Catherine W.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 4696

Martha Langford is the Research Chair and Director of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art and a professor in the Department of Art History at Concordia University in Montreal. She is also editor-in-chief of Journal of Canadian Art History/Annales d'histoire de l'art canadien and co-editor, with Sandra Paikowsky, of the Beaverbrook Foundation Series on Canadian Art History of McGill-Queen's University Press.

Langford has written the first comprehensive survey of modern Canadian photographic art: "A Short History of Photography, 1900-2000," in Anne Whitelaw, Brian Foss, and Sandra Paikowsky, eds., The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2010). Her writing on photography and video addresses mediated experience in relation to constructs of memory and imagination. These interests intersect in "Imagined Memories: On Rafael Goldchain's Family Album," in Rafael Goldchain, I Am My Family: Photographic Memories and Fictions (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008) and "A Murder of White Crows: Susan MacWilliam's Varieties of Psychical Experience," in Karen Downey, editor, Susan MacWilliam: Remote Viewing (Black Dog Publishing, 2009).

Her books include Suspended Conversations: The Afterlife of Memory in Photographic Albums (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001) and Scissors, Paper, Stone: Expressions of Memory in Contemporary Photographic Art (MQUP, 2007). Her edited collection, Image & Imagination, published in both English and French editions (MQUP, 2005), featured original essays by American, Australian, and British scholars. Her studies of vernacular photography include A Cold War Tourist and His Camera, co-written with John Langford (MQUP, 2011) and "Strange Bedfellows: Appropriations of the Vernacular by Photographic Artists," in Photography & Culture 1:1 (2008). Working with a team of graduate students, Langford is developing a common research tool for Canadian photographic studies, to be launched in 2013.

She is currently completing an intellectual biography of Canadian visual artist Michael Snow. This research has already generated numerous conference papers, book chapters, and catalogue essays, including "Repetition / La Répétition: Michael Snow and the Act of Memory," in Catsou Roberts, ed., Michael Snow almost Cover to Cover (Bristol and London: Arnolfini and Black Dog Press, 2001);  "Michael Snow: Screen Writing," Switch 3 (Powerplant, spring 2010): 8-15 and "Translation, Migration, Fascination: Motion Pictures by Michael Snow," in Michael Snow, Recent Works (Vienna: Secession, 2012).

Langford serves as a contributing editor for Border Crossings (Winnipeg), EXIT - Imagen y Cultura / Image & Culture (Madrid), Photography & Culture (London), and Ciel Variable (Montreal). She is a regular book reviewer for Source: The Photographic Review (Belfast). Founding director of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography in Ottawa (1985-1994) and artistic director of the international photographic biennale, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal 2005, Langford is an active independent curator whose recent exhibitions include Unmasking: Arthur Renwick, Adrian Stimson, Jeff Thomas (2009) for the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris and curatorial consultant for the Musée du Quai Branly photographic biennale PhotoQuai 2009, both projects in collaboration with Sherry Farrell Racette. Also in 2009, she was the commissioning curator for Preoccupations: Photographic Explorations of the Grey Nuns Mother House for the Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University.

Langford received her PhD from McGill University in 1997, followed by fellowships held at the Institute for the Humanities of Simon Fraser University and the National Gallery of Canada.

Research & Teaching Interests

  • Photographic History and Theory
  • Canadian Photographic Historiography
  • Twentieth-Century Canadian Art
  • Visual Culture
  • Photographic Experience (Memory and Imagination)
  • Institutional Theory

Distinctions & Awards

Concordia University Research Chair in Art History, 2013-2014.

Individual Investigator, Standard Research Grant, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, for three-year project, "The 'Memoriography' of Unwritten Histories: Making an Example of Canadian Photography," April 2008 - March 2011.

Concordia University Research Chair in Art History, 2008-2009

Co-Investigator, L'Américanité et l'art canadien (Award holder: Louise Vigneault, Université de Montréal), Standard Research Grants Program, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, April 2003 - March 31, 2006.

National Gallery of Canada, Research Fellowship in Canadian Art, 2002-03.
Canada Council Arts Grant (A), Criticism and Curating, 2002-2003.

Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec: Aide à la circulation d'oeuvres (La Méthode et l'extase: Richard Baillargeon, Michel Campeau, Bertrand Carrière) 2001-2003.

Canada Council Arts Grant (B), Criticism and Curating, 1995-1996, 1997-1998, 2001-2002.

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, January 1999 - December 2000.

Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec: Literary Grant (B), 1998.

Doctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 1993-1995.

Max Stern Fellowship in Art History, 1991-92; Fellowship Renewal, 1992-1993.
Government of Canada Merit Award, 1989.

Teaching activities

Drawing on her specialization, professional background, and current research, Martha Langford has taught undergraduate courses on photographic history and theory, museums and other art institutions, and individual practice (Life and Work of Michael Snow). At the graduate level, Langford's seminars tackle thematic and methodological questions, such as "Artists' Words," "What Use Is Photography?" and "How to Explain Art to the 99%." Her lectures and course materials are interdisciplinary, while stressing creative processes, spectatorial experience, and socio-political formations.


  • ARTH 267 Aspects of the History of Photography
  • ARTH 283 The Life and Work of Michael Snow
  • ARTH 384 Theories of Representation: Photography and Memory
  • ARTH 390 Art and the Institution: The Museum
  • ARTH 450D Advanced Seminar in the History of Art: Aspects of Photographic Narrative


  • ARTH 610K Selected Issues in North American Art and Architectural History: Images of Exile in 20th Century Art
  • ARTH 610L Selected Issues in North American Art and Architectural History: Artists' Words
  • ARTH 640 Issues in North American Photographic History
  • ARTH 803H Strained Histories
  • ARTH 804E What Use Is Photography?
  • ARTH 805 What Do We Owe the Object?
  • ARTH 805H Critical Examination of Artistic Content: Artistic Milieux: Surfacing Survivals: The Status of Nationalisms, Localisms, Objecthood, Ephemerality, and Interdisciplinarity in Current Art Historical Research

Thesis Supervision

Amanda Burstein (in progress)
The Operations of Memory in the Art of Angela Grossmann and Rafael Goldchain

Emma Kreiner (in progress)
Visualizing Saint-Henri

Vana Nazarian (in progress)
Familiar Faces and Nostalgic Places: Family Photographs as Instruments of Memory and Identity in the Montreal Armenian Community

Philippe Guillaume, SIP (in progress)
A Study of Photography and Walking in Canadian Art since 1950

Natalia Lebedinskaia, MA
The Makortoff Family Collection: Tradition and Assimilation in the Photographs of Doukhobor Daily Life in the 1920-1950
Convocation: 2011

Pablo Rodriguez, MA
Phantasms of Interpretation: Raphaelle de Groot's Portraits de Clients
Convocation: 2011

Robert Coles, MA
Ready for Takeoff: Carl Schaefer's Second World War paintings of the RCAF
Convocation: 2011

Adam Lauder, MA
Executive Fictions: Revisiting Information
Convocation: Fall 2010

Stephen Lyons, MA
Stan Douglas and the "New-old" Film
Convocation: Fall 2010

Erin Silver, MA
No "Gestures of Return"? Querying Queer Aesthetics in North American Art
Convocation: Fall 2009

Patricia Killoran-Quill, MA
Literary Excavations: The Text-based Art of Brigitte Radecki
Convocation: Spring 2009

Christopher Régimbal, MA
Institutions of Culture and Urban Planning: The relationship between art museums and culture-led urban planning initiatives in two small Ontario cities
Convocation: Spring 2009

Andria Hickey, MA
In the Wake of Trauma: Representing the Unnameable in Contemporary Art
Convocation: Spring 2009

Jacqueline Sischy, MA
The Ethics of Remembrance: The S-21 Photographs
Convocation: Spring 2009

Shane McCord, MA
Pushing Books: The Bookwork as Democratic Multiple in the Late Capitalist Era
Convocation: Spring 2008

Tammer El-Sheikh, MA
Paper Cuts: Life, Death and "Drags" in Andy Warhol's America
Convocation: Fall 2007

Sharon Murray, MA
Missionizing Photography: Miss Amanda Jefferson's Photograph Album, 1892-1898
Convocation: Fall 2007

Jean-Francois Bélisle, MA
Canadian Voices at the Venice Biennale: The Production of a Canadian Image through the Venice Biennale between 1988 and 2005
Convocation: Spring 2007

Marsha Taichman, MA
Objects, Materials, and Surfaces: The Photographs of Lynne Cohen
Convocation: Fall 2006

Samuel Gaudreau-Lalande, Art History (in progress)

Pablo Rodriguez, Art History (in progress)

Michel Hardy-Vallée, Art History (in progress)
Open Testimony: A Critical Study of John Max's Narrative Photographs

Sarah Watson, Art History (in progress)

Elizabeth Cavaliere, Art History (in progress)
19th-century North American landscape photography

Corina Ilea,  Art History (in progress)
Displacements of the Body in Contemporary Romanian Photography

Karla McManus, Art History (in progress)
Witnessing the Future and Exhibiting the Present: The Ecological Turn of Contemporary Landscape Photography in the Art Institution

Sharon Murray, Art History (in progress)
Mission photography in India

Zoë Tousignant, Art History (in progress)
Magazines and the Making of Photographic Modernism in Canada, 1925-1945

Véronique La Perrière, Humanities (in progress)
Palimpseste muséographique: L'objet de collection revisité par l'artiste

Aurèle Parisien, Art History (in progress)
Mrs. Barnett's Dead Child: Photography, Objects, and Commemorative Practice

Research activities


Participation activities

Conferences & Lectures

Lecture Series

  • Speaking of Photography, 2006-present. Annual lecture series, organized for the Department of Art Art History
Peer-reviewed conference papers


  • "A Room with a View: Cold War Cairo," Cities and Societies in Comparative Perspective, European Association for Urban History, Prague, Czech Republic, 29 August - 1 September 2012.
  • "The Group: Founders of The Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan 1970 - 1972," Imagining History, Canadian Women Artists History Initiative 2nd Conference, Concordia University, 3-5 May 2012.
  • "Richard Harrington's Guide: Universality and Locality in a Canadian Photographic Document," 38th Annual Association of Art Historians Conference, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 29 - 31 March 2012.
  • "New Photographic Histories in Canada," session chair, Universities Art Association of Canada annual conference, Carleton University, 27-29 October 2011.
  • "Circuits of Faith: Representations of the Canadian North in an Oblate Missionary Journal Pôle et Tropiques," Photographie, mobilités, intermédialité, Atelier du Centre de recherche sur l'intermédialité (CRI), Université de Montréal, Montreal, 8-9 April, 2011 (NB: member of scientific committee).
  • "Vernaculars in Translation: A Cold War Tourist and His Camera." Photo Archives and the Photographic Memory of Art History III, organized by the Institute of Fine Arts and the Department of Art History of New York University, 25-6 March 2011.
  • "Light Erasures and Shifting Temporalities in Recent Work by Michael Snow," College Art Association, New York, 12 February 2011 (read in absentia).
  • "Dis-InFORMation: Michael Snow's Ideas about Idea Art," Traffic: Conceptualism in Canada, international conference organized by the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, University of Toronto, November 26, 2010.
  • "Re-aligning the View: Cold War Cairo," co-written with John Langford, Cold War Cities, study day organized by the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London, September 25, 2010.
  • "Showing Without Telling: A Cold War Tourist and His Camera," co-presented with John Langford, Art Histories, Cultural Studies and the Cold War, international conference hosted by the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London, September 24, 2010.
  • "Rogue Photographies and Primitivist Fantasies: A Note of Caution on the New Photographic Vernacular," UAAC conference, York University, Toronto, November 6-8, 2008.
  • "Collective Memories and Persistent Primitivisms: Notes of Caution on the Photographic Vernacular," for Back to the Future: Productive Remembering in Changing Times, an invitational workshop/symposium organized by McGill University, October 22 24, 2008.
  • "The Thickness of Light, the Thinness of Materials: Thinking through Process in the Work of Michael Snow," for presentation at Faire oeuvre: Transparence et opacité, organized by École des Arts visuels, Université Laval, May 19-22 2008.
  • "A Cold War Tourist and his Camera," co-written with John Langford for presentation at SSHRC-funded workshop, The Cultural Work of Photographs in Canada, organized by Carleton University, in affiliation with the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, May 8-10, 2008.
  • "Agit-prompters: The Workings of Memory in Condé and Beveridge's Representations of Labour," Politics of Cultural Memory, Manchester Metropolitan University, November 4-6, 200.
  • "Tournage: Turning (Returning) to Michael Snow's La Région Centrale," Revisiting the North, CIHA 2004, Montreal, August 22-27, 2004.
  • "After Vietnam: Traces of Exile and Fragments of Homeland in Canadian Art," session co-chair with Jerry Zaslove, College Art Association Conference, Seattle, February 18-21, 2004.
  • "The Pictures that We Have: Reconstructions of the Photographic Archive," paper presented at Universities Art Association of Canada Annual Conference, Queen's University, Kingston, November 8, 2003.
  • "Speaking the Album: An Application of the Oral-Photographic Framework," College Art Association Conference, Philadelphia, February 22, 2002.
  • "Replacement Parts: Cindy Sherman's Abuse of the Doll," paper presented at Universities Art Association of Canada Annual Conference, Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, November 1999 (session co-chaired with Jerald Zaslove).
  • "Rear Projections: The Play of Memory on the Photographic Landscape," College Art Association Conference, Los Angeles, February 1999.
  • "As Gaea Gave Birth to Mnemosyne: The Landscape in Photographic Reprise," paper presented at the Universities Art Association of Canada Annual Conference, McGill University, November 1996.
  • "The Private Photograph Transposed," paper presented at the 33rd national conference of the Society for Photographic Education, Los Angeles, 1996.
  • "Une Architecture Murmurante: An Expression of Freemasonry in Claude-Nicolas Ledoux's Propylaea for Paris?" paper presented at a conference, "Recontextualizing the Eighteenth Century," organized by the Northeast American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Ottawa, 1995.
  • "A Machine in the Grotto: The Grotesque in Photography," paper presented at the "International Conference on the Hideous and the Sublime," organized by West Georgia College, Atlanta, Georgia, 1994.
  • "The Museum as Site and Source of Memory," Canadians and their Pasts: The Future of Museums as Sources of Knowledge, workshop organized by the Canadian Museums Association, Ottawa, 14-15 November 2011.
  • "Notes on the Writing of 'A Short History of Photography, 1900-2000," Symposium: 20th-Century Visual Arts in Canada, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, 10 May 2011.
  • "A Cold War Tourist and His Camera," co-presented with John Langford, Cold War Confidential, symposium organized by the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, February 4, 2011.
  • Présidente de séance, "Médiatisation," Colloque international: Imaginaires du présent. Photographie, politique et poétique de l'actualité, organisé par Figura, centre de recherche sur le texte et l'imaginaire, Université du Québec à Montréal, 22-23 octobre 2010.
  • Session facilitator, "Telling Stories/Storytelling," Canadian Historical Association, Congress 2010, Concordia University, June 1, 2010.
  • Moderator, "Reza. Reveal: A Witness to Pain." Human Rights Day, President's Conference Series, Human Rights: Denounce, Reveal, and Declare." Congress 2010, Concordia University, May 28, 2010.
  • Discussant, Curating Difficult Knowledge, conference organized by the Centre for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence (CEREV), Concordia University, April 16-18, 2009.
  • American Photographic Landscape," lectures delivered in French and English to docents of the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal / Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in preparation for the exhibition Grandeur nature. Peinture et photographies américains et canadiens de 1860 to 1918 / Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscapes 1860-1918, February 9, 2009.
  • "What Use is Photography?" paper presented at Images of Society: Variable Trajectories, McCord Museum, September 20, 2007.
  • "The Assembled Self: A Photographic Memoir of Girlhood," paper presented at Picturing Her: Images of Girlhood, McCord Museum, December 1, 2005.
  • "Image & Imagination," organizer of two-day international symposium for Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, in collaboration with the Université du Québec à Montréal and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Speakers: Geoffrey Batchen, Raymond Bellour, Fae Brauer, Michel Campeau, Francine Dagenais, Louise Déry, Peggy Gale, Martyn Jolly, Holly King, Vincent Lavoie, Kirsty Robertson, Carolee Schneemann, and Michael Snow, 2005.
  • "Michael Snow's Biographie: Relocating the Walking Woman," paper presented at The Sixties: Style and Substance, McCord Museum, November 6, 2003.
  • "The Task of the Spectator in the New Era of the Aura," National Gallery of Canada/Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, paper presented at the Confluence symposium, February 1, 2003.
  • "Remembering to Tell: Orality and Photographic Albums," paper for a conference, "Locating Memory: Photographic Acts," Institute for Cultural Research, Lancaster University, May 2001; revised version given as a guest lecture in the series, "Traces," at McGill University, Department of Art History and Communication Studies, November 1, 2001; revised version given at The Light Symposium, Memorial University, September 27, 2002.
  • "Visual Prompts, or Tell me, what does a documentary photograph look like?" presentation at symposium, "Le Souci du document," CV Photo/Vox/Université du Québec à Montréal, September 18, 1999; expanded version delivered at Emily Carr College of Art and Design, November 17, 1999.
  • "The Photographic Landscape in Reprise" and "What is Nationhood?" at "Changing Views of the Landscape: 2," conference organized by Photo 98, The Year of Photography and the Electronic Image, llkley, Yorkshire, September 1998.
Selected Public Lectures
  • "The Current State of Canadian Art Historical Research, Pressing Needs, and Possible Solutions," Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University, 20 April 2011.
  • "A Cold War Tourist and His Camera," with John Langford, Speaking of Photography, organized by the Department of Art History, Concordia University, March 15, 2011.
  • A public conversation with Greg Staats to inaugurate his solo exhibition condolence, Articule, Montreal, 14 January, 2011.
  • "Regarding the Photographs of Others," seminar, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, Concordia University, April 2, 2009.
  • "What Use Is Photography?" New/Photography lecture series, Art Gallery of Alberta, November 30, 2006.
  • "Image and Imagination: Encounters with the Photographic Work of Tracey Moffatt," in the series "The Defiant Imagination," co-organized by the Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, November 16, 2005.
  • "Unstilled Lives: Destiny Deacon and Evergon," curator's talk, Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, September 29, 2005.
  • "'Illusionist Ruptures in the Decorum:' Michael Snow in the Moment of Pre-Authorization," Concordia University, Department of Art History, March 23, 2004.

Artistic performances


since 2005

Preoccupations: Photographic Explorations of the Grey Nuns Mother House. Curator for 12 commissioned photographic works expressing the creative potential of the Grey Nuns complex. FoFA Gallery. 8 October - November 8, 2009.

Unmasking: Arthur Renwick, Adrian Stimson, Jeff Thomas. Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris. Co-curator, with Sherry Farrell Racette, exhibition of contemporary photographic and videographic works by First Nations artists, complementing Photoquai. 22 September, 2009 - mid-January, 2010.

Photoquai. Biennale des images du monde. 'Co-commissaire' in consultation with Sherry Farrell Racette, on participation of First Nations photographic artists in exhibition organized by the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. 22 September, 2009 - 22 November, 2009

Image & Imagination, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal 2005. Artistic director of the biennale, a program of  29 exhibitions (solo ro thematic) organized in collaboration with host institutions. Curator of 19 of those exhibitions, responsible for all aspects of research, selection, interpretation, and installation. Those exhibitions included Michael Snow: Windows, Galerie de l'UQAM; Lynne Marsh: Crater, Cinémathèque québécoise; Tracey Moffatt, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Unstilled Lives: Destiny Deacon and Evergon, Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University; Neverlands: Monique Genton, Toni Hafkenscheid, Martin Parr and Mike Yuhasz, Maison de la Culture Frontenac; After Alice: Angela Grossmann and Polixeni Papapetrou, Maison de la culture Plateau-Mont-Royal; and others installed in various locations in Montreal.

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