Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Art and Visual Culture


Dr. Sarah Bassnett


This dissertation investigates how community-engaged photographic portrait projects variously support and challenge neoliberalism in Toronto. It examines how photographic portraiture is used to constitute communities that are simultaneously the public face of the diversity of the city and the targets of neoliberal rationality, policies, and procedures that further marginalize these groups. This research investigates how portrait projects variably demonstrate the intensified inequality of neoliberalism, while, at the same time, their focus on identity and community sometimes obscures the systemic causes of exclusion in the city. Chapter 1 considers how Pierre Maraval’s Mille Femmes (2008) and Dan Bergeron’s Regent Park Portraits (2008) harnessed the power of the spectacle to support and subvert urban neoliberalism. Chapter 2 discusses how Bergeron’s series, The Unaddressed (2009), contested austerity measures and argues that the vandalism of some of the posters in this series reflected harsh neoliberal worldviews. Chapter 3 examines Jameson Avenue Impressions (2009) and situates this project in Toronto’s global city strategy. This chapter explores how the current conditions of this project now challenge the vibrant image of Parkdale it once sought to represent. Finally, in the fourth chapter, I discuss Manifesto Festival’s participation in JR’s Inside Out Project (2011) to show that while this project used photographic portraiture to contest austerity politics, JR’s participatory methodology encourages citizens to perform neoliberal ideas of citizenship and community. This research contributes to the study of art, photography, and visual culture by considering new roles for photographers, subjects, and photographic portraiture in a global neoliberal era.

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