Felicity T. C. Hamer and Soroosh Shahtalebi — Concordia doctoral candidates in communications studies and information systems engineering, respectively — are the latest recipients of the university’s Stand-Out Graduate Research Awards.
The prize is offered twice a year to students who have made exceptional research contributions in the categories of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Engineering, Medical Sciences and Natural Sciences.
Winners are chosen based on the importance of their research as well as their ability to communicate its relevance to the general public. They must also have applied to one of the Fonds de Recherche du Québec’s Relève étoile awards.
The award is valued at $1,000 per person with an additional top-up of $500 if the research is also selected for the Relève étoile.
Memory, bereavement and imagination through photography
At an unprecedented time, when COVID-19 is ending the lives of so many, it’s both relevant and important to consider the tools available to mourn these losses.
Hamer’s dissertation, “Developing Memory: Remembrance, Embellishment, Hauntography,” looks at the complex ways in which photographic portraits extend relationships beyond death.
Her recent book Parental Grief and Photographic Remembrance, for which she received the Stand-Out Award, is the second in the series “Sharing Death Online.” It examines the challenges unique to those grieving the loss of a child.
“My research focuses on memory, imagination and bereavement through photography,” Hamer says. “I look at emotional engagement with photographs, supernatural and miraculous imagery and the intersections of religion and photography.”
Working under the supervision of Jeremy Stolow, associate professor of Communication Studies, Hamer is exploring the concept of what she calls “hauntography,” in which photographic mementos become so enmeshed in imaginative remembrance that, even when misplaced or intentionally avoided, they retain a powerful affective charge.
“Memory is not linear,” she continues. “We are continually jumping around in time, revisiting past experiences in the present. Remembrance can feel as though it entails a backwards kind of reflection, whereas imagining is often associated with the future.”
Hamer adds that parental bereavement and remembering a lost child complicates this process — as what is remembered is perhaps inseparable from the fantasy of what could have been.