Book Launch – Place Matters: Critical Topographies in Word and Image

Place Matters: Critical Topographies in Word and Image

Edited by Jonathan Bordo and Blake Fitzpatrick (MQUP 2022)

Book Launch and Roundtable
Tuesday, February 28, 2023, 7 pm
Register for the Zoom event

The Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC) in the School of Image Arts at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) is pleased to host the launch of Place Matters: Critical Topographies in Work and Image, edited by Jonathan Bordo (Trent University) and Blake Fitzpatrick (TMU).

Please join us for presentations and a roundtable discussion with contributors addressing photographic/video works in the collection:
Jonathan Bordo, Robert Del Tredici, Blake Fitzpatrick, Daniel Froidevaux and Elisa Gonzalez, Katy McCormick, David McMillan, Rehab Nazzal, Mark Ruwedel

Images (left to right): David McMillan, Flags in Kindergarten Stairwell, Prypiat, 1994. Robert Del Tredici, Port Hope Uranium Finishing Plant, Port Hope, pop. 18,000, on the shore of Lake Ontario, 22 May, 2010.

Place Matters: a meditation, in word and image, on the meaning and significance of place.

In Place Matters scholars and artists conduct varied forms of place-based inquiry to demonstrate why place matters. Lavishly illustrated, the volume brings into conversation photographic projects and essays that revitalise the study of landscape.

Contributors engage the study of place through an approach that Jonathan Bordo and Blake Fitzpatrick call critical topography: the way that we understand critical thought to range over a place, or how thought and symbolic forms invent place through text and image as if initiated by an X marking the spot. Chapters map the deep cultural, environmental, and political histories of singular places, interrogating the charged relation between history, place, and power and place making in such sites as Colonus, Mont Sainte- Victoire, Hiroshima, Chomolungma/Everest, Palestine, Chornobyl, Donetsk airport, the US/Mexico border and the island of Lesbos.

In his prologue W.J.T. Mitchell writes: “Places, like feasts, are moveable. They can be erased and forgotten, lost in space, or maintained and rebuilt. Both their appearance and disappearance, their making and unmaking, are the work of critical topography.”

Rehab Nazzal, A view of destruction of olive planted hills in Bethlehem region, November 2015.


Jonathan Bordo is professor of cultural studies and former director of the Cultural Studies PhD Program at Trent University. Critical topography as a theoretical approach to study place and landscape is articulated in many published essays, including most recently “Walter Benjamin at The City Library of Berlin” in Images: The Jewish Journal of Art History and Visual Culture (2019).

Robert Del Tredici is an artist, photographer, and teacher and has tracked the nuclear age since 1979. His first nuclear book, The People of Three Mile Island (1980), explored nuclear power through the eyes of those affected by America’s gravest nuclear catastrophe. His second book, At Work in the Fields of the Bomb (1987), documented, over a six-year period, the US nuclear-weapons complex.

Blake Fitzpatrick is professor, School of Image Arts at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). Fitzpatrick’s writing and visual work have appeared in numerous journals and in edited collections, including The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada (2011), Camera Atomica (2015), and Through Post-Atomic Eyes (2020). He is co-editor of Critical Distance in Documentary Media (2018), contributing a chapter on the aerial image.

Daniel Froidevaux is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer whose work has been exhibited in galleries and festivals internationally. His most recent film, The Quiet Zone (2017), co-directed with Elisa Gonzalez, premiered at Hot Docs in 2017, culminating a five-year-long project that first came to life as a video installation. Froidevaux holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Toronto Metropolitan University.

Elisa Gonzalez is a filmmaker and educator rooted in the fine arts. She holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Toronto Metropolitan University and a BFA in photography from Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design. Her recent work explores the inherent structures of power in technology, the environment, and the individual through contemporary documentary form.

Katy McCormick is associate professor and co-director of the Documentary Media Research Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, where she teaches photography and documentary media. Her photographic work, exhibited in both Canada and the US, examines commemorative sites, monuments, and memorials that reveal narratives and social histories embedded in landscapes. Her work is included in Through Post-Atomic Eyes, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, in 2020.

David McMillan began his career as a painter but eventually realized his sensibility was more attuned to photography. In 1994, he visited the guarded zone around the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, which had been evacuated after the 1986 accident. The initial visit was productive, and McMillan decided to return the following year; he has now photographed in the area twenty-two times. This work has been brought together in the book Growth and Decay: Prypiat and the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (2019).

Rehab Nazzal is a Palestinian-born multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto. Nazzal’s work deals with the effects of settler-colonial violence on the bodies and minds of colonized peoples, on land, and on other non-human life in colonized territories. Her video, photography, and sound works have been exhibited internationally in both group and solo exhibitions and screenings. She has published two photography books: Portraits of Resistance (2018) and Driving in Palestine (forthcoming 2023).

Mark Ruwedel is professor emeritus at California State University. In 2014 he was awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Scotiabank Photography Award, and he was shortlisted for the Deutsche Borse Photography Prize in 2019 and the Prix Pictet in 2021. Publications include Westward the Course of Empire (2008); 1212 Palms (2010); Pictures of Hell (2014); Mark Ruwedel Scotiabank Photography Award (2015); Message from the Exterior (2017); Dog Houses (2017); Ouarzazate (2018); Palms/ Capri (2019) and Seventy-Two and One Half Miles across Los Angeles (2020).

This event is supported by the Documentary Media Research Centre (DMRC). The DMRC develops new scholarship and research/production methodologies in all forms of contemporary documentary practice.

Media Contact: Blake Fitzpatrick: