Zoë Tousignant

Zoë Tousignant

PhD 2013, Concordia University
Independent Curator and Researcher,
Montreal, Quebec

Zoë Tousignant is a photography historian and curator specializing in twentieth-century and contemporary photography produced in Quebec and Canada. She is currently the associate curator of photography at the McCord Museum, and previously worked as a curator at the contemporary art documentation centre Artexte. Her doctoral research, which was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, focused on the use of photography in popular illustrated magazines published in Montreal and Toronto during the Interwar period. Her subsequent research has continued to examine print culture as a vital form of dissemination for photography in Canada.

How are you applying your degree in Art History and what do you value most from your doctoral experience?

I consider that all of the work I have done since graduating has been building on what I learnt over the course of my degree. My research interests have always been very focused and consistent, but since graduating I’ve been working on putting into practice what I preached in my thesis. My current position as associate curator of photography at the McCord Museum allows me to deal with real objects – with all the challenges and pleasures that this implies. The McCord’s photography collection is a perfect reflection of the fascinating idiosyncrasies of photographic history in Canada.

During my degree, I valued the graduate seminars very highly. The ones I participated in seemed to all be composed of smart, dynamic and very witty people. The animated discussions and debates we had in class were always thought-provoking. They ended up shaping the way I carried out my thesis project.
I also was an active member of Concordia’s Art History Graduate Students Association (AHGSA), and organized the graduate conference titled Travelling Photographies. It was amazing to me that participants came from all over the world, and several of them are now movers and shakers in the field of photographic history. I’m proud to have brought these students together at an early stage in their careers, and to have facilitated good conversation.

What advice would you give to someone considering graduate studies in Art History?

Do it. And take every opportunity that is offered to you – teaching, presenting papers, organizing conferences, curating exhibitions, publishing essays… Each opportunity will help make you a more rounded scholar. Also, attend as many academic lectures and presentations as possible; whether they act as a model or a counter-model, these lectures and presentations will inevitably help you develop your own ideas.