The Lives of Documents—Photography as Project opens at the CCA


Visit to the studio of Susanne Kriemann (2023). Photograph by Stefano Graziani

The Lives of Documents—Photography as Project is the first of a trilogy of research and exhibition projects produced by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) on the medium of photography—between work of art, research tool, and document—as a means to investigate the built environment.

The exhibition, which will be on display at the CCA in Montreal, QC, will run until March 3 2024.

In light of the pioneering efforts the CCA has made since its foundation in redefining the role of photography within the field of architecture as well as within research institutions and collections, the project is conceived as a display of open research where works of authors from the 1970s until today—from the CCA collection and beyond—are presented together with unpublished projects, books, publication mock-ups, interviews, and documents connected to the production of the works themselves.

Curated by Bas Princen and Stefano Graziani, The Lives of Documents—Photography as Project is structured as an exhibition, an oral history conducted in cinematographic form, a series of commissioned artists’ books, and a web issue. The project aims to dissect the practice of artists and photographers whose work has crucially contributed to defining thresholds of transformation of the discipline within the last fifty years in relation to specific topics—from the notion of landscape to the complexity of the archive as a project format, among others.

Visit to the studio of Armin Linke (2023). Photograph by Stefano Graziani.

“The life of the photography collection at the CCA predates the formation of the institution in 1979. As part of her practice of observation as an architect, photographer, sculptor, and researcher, CCA founder Phyllis Lambert began collecting photographs in 1974,” the CAA writes.

“This laid the foundations for our steady and coherent collecting focus on photography, which has resulted in a unique body of around 65,000 photographic documents of diverse formats and mediums, from daguerreotypes to digital and moving images. Many more photographs are present in other parts of our Collection, particularly in the archives of architects.”

The Lives of Documents—Photography as Project embraces the idea of the documentary as an embedded quality of photographic language, and questions the relevance and actuality of photography as a means to interrogate and interpret the mechanisms that are modelling our visible world.