Framing Place: Photography and Design Culture in Canada

By Susan Close.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Design culture is used to describe the transdisciplinary study of design that includes such practices as architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and urban planning. It is respectful of the disciplinary expertise of each, but at the same time, blurs the sometimes entrenched boundaries between them. Design culture takes into account social and political trends and considers issues such as consumerism. It can be traced from the practice of William Morris, the founder of the nineteenth century English Arts and Craft movement and continues today in the analysis of contemporary issues such as the branding of cities.
In this paper, I examine how photography has been used as a social practice in design culture in Canada. Specifically, I examine work from the photographic practice of three contemporary Canadian photographers, Lynne Cohen, Richard Holden and Alain Paiement. I shall read each of the images as narrative texts grounded in methodology taken from cultural analysis that is interdisciplinary and concept based.
To date, there is no established canon of design theory. As with art and architectural theory, most design theory is drawn from interdisciplinary sources that include concepts such as mapping and privacy. The theoretical framework that informs this study draws from the writing of such critical and cultural theorists as: Mieke Bal, Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, and John Tagg. Contemporary ideas about the built environment are considered in light of recent work of design theorists Guy Julier and William J. Mitchell. I have also made use of the analysis of space and place carried out by human geographers Tim Cresswell and Yi- Fu Tuan.

Keywords: Design Culture, Photography, Design Theory

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.69-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 6.083MB).

Dr. Susan Close

Assistant Professor, Department of Interior Design, Faculty of Architecture, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Susan Close is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Architecture and a Senior Fellow at St. John’s College, both at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. She teaches theory and photography in the graduate program. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Amsterdam in 2005. Her book, Framing Identity: Social Practices of Photography in Canada (1880-1920) was published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing in 2007.


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