I received an MA in Environmental Studies and a PhD in Visual Art and Anthropology from the University of Victoria. I work with cultural practices of photography.
In my current research I break and rebuild photography to disconnect it from its role in technofetishism and corporate, extractivist capitalism. I am interested in recognizing and re-establishing connections between photography and the practices of camera obscuras (and other anti-capitalist camera forms) and to non-toxic, simple, plant based emulsions. This emphasis brings photography back into relationship with experiences of fleeting, impermanent images, and into everyday practices with images in the world.
My visual research into contested territories of parks and protected areas in North America explores the affective force and materiality of photography and archives. In my theorization of photography, I ask, how are photographs not only fixed as images or objects, but lively, entangled and emergent events? I pose this question within communities that engage parks, for example, through the art projects Finding Aid and Portable Camera Obscura in Waterton Lakes National Park. Together, using simple camera forms and archival photographs, we follow fleeting moments and shifting visualities to account for the fundamental impermanence of life.
In recent writing I explore the ethical and political implications of focusing on the event over the fixed image in colonial photography. In The Anthropology of Historical Photography in a Protected Area: Life and death in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta (2014 Anthropologica (56) 117-153) I break down colonial photographs through attempts at re-enactment to reveal their connection to life and death, injustices and inequality. In connected artworks I create new composited forms.
Some of my research and site-specific interventions are archived on trudilynnsmith.blogspot.ca
I am interested in bringing together the methods of art practice and social research in my writing, presentations and artworks, for example I explore the connections between the two in my current research project Residue, and in publications such as Repeat Photography as Method in Visual Anthropology published in the journal Visual Anthropology.
I am a founding member of the curatorial collective Ethnographic Terminalia, an experimental project that since 2009, has curated exhibitions in North American cities, working with over 150 artists and anthropologists to demonstrate how contemporary artists, anthropologists, and institutions are engaging with anthropology, ethnographic methods, and art.
While much of my work is situated in events and installations outside of galleries, my work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV), The Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Crane Arts, 500x, Fifth Street, Open Space Arts Society. My place specific works have been installed in (selected): Waterton Lakes National Park (CAN), City of Rocks Natural Preserve (USA); Yellowstone NP (USA); Capitol Reef National Park (field station) (USA); Santa Cruz Island (USA).
I’m interested in connections between feminist art practice and the studio and between 2011-2017 I worked with artist Lynda Gammon to make a series of interventions — an artist book, an academic publication, a large format camera and events, called 562 Fisgard.
I currently teach in the School of Environmental Studies at UVic and am the Artist-in-Residence at Making Culture Lab, SFU.