7-1 | Table of Con­tents | DOI 10.17742/IMAGE.NBW.7-1.4 | SmithEn­glePDF


Abstract | The text-essay by Karen Engle, “Frag­ments of Desire," and pho­to-essay by Tru­di Lynn Smith, “Find­ing Aid: NxW,” togeth­er form a con­ver­sa­tion intend­ed to explore con­nec­tions between pho­tog­ra­phy, truth, impos­si­bil­i­ty, and fail­ure with­in pho­tog­ra­phy in present-day Water­ton Lakes Nation­al Park, Cana­da. In response to the provo­ca­tion of this spe­cial issue, Smith select­ed pieces from her archival art­work Find­ing Aid and mailed it to Engle, who wrote the essay in response to her encounter with the archive. When Smith received the essay, she cre­at­ed a pho­to-essay from the archive in response to Engle’s text.
Résumé | L’essai de Karen Engle « Frag­ments de désir » et le reportage pho­to de Tru­di Lynn Smith for­ment une con­ver­sa­tion ayant pour but d’explorer la con­nex­ion entre pho­togra­phie, vérité, impos­si­ble et échec dans la pho­togra­phie con­tem­po­raine du parc nation­al Water­ton Lakes. En réponse au défi posé par cette édi­tion spé­ciale, Smith a sélec­tion­né des images de son œuvre archivis­tique Find­ing aid puis les a envoyées à Engle qui a écrit son essai à par­tir de son inter­ac­tion avec ces doc­u­ments d’archives. Suite à la récep­tion de l’essai, Smith a créé le reportage pho­to à par­tir des archives en réponse au texte d’Engle.

Tru­di Lynn Smith | Uni­ver­si­ty of Vic­to­ria
Karen Engle | Uni­ver­si­ty of Wind­sor

FRAGMENTS OF DESIRE [*]

As soon as the idea of a debt to the dead, to peo­ple of flesh and blood to whom some­thing real­ly hap­pened in the past, stops giv­ing doc­u­men­tary research its high­est end, his­to­ry los­es its mean­ing. – Paul Ricoeur (qtd. in Merewether 68)

Rig­gall and Smith: His Adven­tures and Her[1] Desire

F. H. “Bert” Rig­gall (1884–1959) took pho­tographs. He was also a “moun­tain guide, out­fit­ter, hunter, trap­per, ranch­er, naturalist…writer and gunsmith/loader in south­ern Alber­ta” (Fonds Whyte). Some­time in the ear­ly 1900s, Rig­gall pho­tographed Water­ton Lake from the Prince of Wales Hotel. He used a Kodak Panoram No. 1 to record this serene view of a lake bound­ed on either side by moun­tains, thus pro­duc­ing a now-clas­sic pic­turesque vision of the Cana­di­an land­scape as unin­hab­it­ed and majes­tic.[2] Graz­ing hors­es on the far left—presumably mem­bers of Riggall’s party—constitute the only sign of life here beyond the veg­e­tal. The copy of Russell’s image in Tru­di Lynn Smith’s archive is in the form of a postcard—that clas­sic struc­ture per­fect­ing the minia­tur­iza­tion of expe­ri­ence. Pic­ture post­cards were at the height of their pop­u­lar­i­ty in the ear­ly-20th cen­tu­ry. For an impe­r­i­al pow­er such as Britain (and Cana­da as inher­i­tor of its visu­al tra­di­tions), the pic­ture post­card func­tioned as a car­ri­er of nation­al mythol­o­gy (see Engle; Wol­laeger; Wong).

7-1-4-3_smith_detailwebFig­ure 1. Panoram by Fred­er­ick Her­bert (Bert) Rig­gall, in collection/courtesy Tru­di Lynn Smith

Smith found the pic­ture post­card in the archives of the Whyte Muse­um of the Cana­di­an Rock­ies.[3] She placed the card, all alone, in a file labeled “Water­ton Lakes Nation­al Park (1895 – 2015) – ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry pho­tographs – FH (Bert) Rig­gall – Kodak Panoram No 1.” She must have seen so many images in these Whyte archives, but some­how all man­ner of things con­verged for her with “Bert”—the shape of the clouds that day, her fatigue, the sound of the wind through the trees…—and she chose his vision as her object.[4] She becomes Riggall’s ghost, haunt­ing his process in a quest to repro­duce the pho­to­graph he made over 100 years before.[v

clouds

            era­sure

The file fold­er is labeled with these words—clouds erasure—on an index card paper-clipped to the fold­er. Inside this file, I find a piece of trac­ing paper made to look like a post­card, sev­er­al pho­tographs of vary­ing sizes made from dif­fer­ent cam­eras, and four pieces of pho­tographs that have been cut and orphaned from their contexts—tiny frag­ments sliced from one envi­ron­ment and laid into this one.[6] Among the ephemera, an index card is paper-clipped to a small, square image con­sist­ing almost entire­ly of an inky, inte­ri­or dark­ness. Details of the room are vague at best, but in the cen­tre of the pho­to­graph, seem­ing­ly very far away from the cam­era, a rec­tan­gu­lar win­dow beck­ons. Yet the win­dow does not open onto any dis­cernible vista—it is back­lit by a light so opaque it may as well be black. The light refus­es its essen­tial func­tion and shuts out all clues to the out­side. Shoot­ing from an impal­pa­ble inte­ri­or, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er directs her focus out­ward to a win­dow that appears too dis­tant to reach, almost like a por­tal to anoth­er time that eter­nal­ly recedes. Trapped inside the dark­ness of the present moment, she can­not get close enough to see beyond this stain of light.

7-1-4-5_smith_detailwebFig­ure 2.

Typed on the index card to the right of the image is the fol­low­ing text: “Water­ton Lakes was first ‘set aside for future gen­er­a­tions’ on May 30, 1895 when offi­cial rec­om­men­da­tions were made to par­lia­ment.” The cap­tion invokes time. Past and future inter­min­gle in text gen­er­at­ed by an actu­al type­writer, a tech­nol­o­gy now dis­tant enough to appear archa­ic. Hav­ing all but van­ished from con­tem­po­rary prac­tice, the type­writer is entire­ly for­eign to my stu­dents. If a machine I used 30 years ago is too dis­tant for mem­o­ry, what is 1895 to the future-nows?

I think of W.G. Sebald’s Auster­litz (2001), in which pho­tographs appear amidst nar­ra­tive with­out any explic­it con­nec­tions made between them. They sit as silent inter­rup­tions in Austerlitz’s quest to retrace his­to­ry. The images are sug­ges­tive, but in the end they give up noth­ing to the read­er who is des­tined to remain just out­side the narrator’s expe­ri­ence. What does the estab­lish­ment of Water­ton Lake Nation­al Park have to do with this inky room?

At first I think that light is the aim of this image, that the pho­tog­ra­ph­er evokes the strug­gle to escape the black­ness of the inte­ri­or through the “light-writ­ing” of tech­no­log­i­cal repro­duc­tion. Yet as I con­tin­ue to look back and forth between win­dow and cap­tion, I begin to pic­ture the pho­tog­ra­ph­er set­ting up camp for an extend­ed stay inside this dark­ened room. She is not try­ing to escape into the light; she knows that light is blind­ing and decep­tive. She has learned, as Wal­ter Ben­jamin learned, that light is a trick­ster (Ben­jamin, “Lit­tle His­to­ry”).[7]

Fragility

She sent it by post. I came home one day to find a box hand-deliv­ered, con­tain­ing a selec­tion of 10 files from her archive. On the front of each file she has attached, with a paper­clip, an index card con­tain­ing a few typed phras­es guid­ing the view­er as to each file’s con­tents. These index­i­cal phras­es are more or less con­crete. For exam­ple, “FH (Bert) Rig­gall – attempts to repli­cate view – the dark­room –” repro­duces a con­ven­tion­al label­ing sys­tem in which the index refers quite lit­er­al­ly to the file’s con­tents, copies of her mul­ti­ple attempts to repro­duce Riggall’s pho­to­graph. Oth­er titles fol­low a less lin­ear log­ic. “Water­ton – the Non­de­script” pro­vides no seman­tic clues to the images and ephemera con­tained with­in: pho­tographs of pho­tographs, a piece of trac­ing paper with what seems to be an impres­sion of the moun­tains sur­round­ing Water­ton Lake, and all man­ner of index cards attached to small pho­tographs mark­ing dif­fer­ent moments from her quest and her haunt­ing of his tra­jec­to­ry. To say that she has sent me mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tives is insuf­fi­cient, for she has done much more with this box. She has gen­er­at­ed an infi­nite num­ber of ways this sto­ry can be told, for each fold­er opens up to a dif­fer­ent start­ing point and branch­es off into any num­ber of his­to­ries, mem­o­ries, and mus­ings. I start to think of the box as a shell for a liv­ing ner­vous sys­tem, one that can gen­er­ate new synap­tic con­nec­tions with each com­bi­na­tion and recom­bi­na­tion of its ele­ments. As in Chris Ware’s Build­ing Sto­ries, the bril­liant box of mul­ti­ple indi­vid­ual frag­ments of sto­ries that com­bine and recom­bine to form relat­ed but unique nar­ra­tives, one choos­es a start­ing point in Smith’s archive with­out any con­text for the impli­ca­tions of that choice.[8] The sto­ries that dif­fer­ent read­ers begin to assem­ble con­tain the same ele­ments but dif­fer in focus and per­spec­tive. These are not puz­zle pieces that fit togeth­er, but rather frag­ments of an unful­filled desire that, in its fail­ure to be real­ized, indi­cates the pure con­tin­gency of a moment archived as his­to­ry.

Postcard

Inside the file  clouds

                        era­sure

I find a piece of trac­ing paper she has turned into a post­card. She has inscribed with pen­cil all the usu­al ele­ments: a divid­ing line between address and mes­sage spaces; the word POSTCARD (which reminds me of Magritte’s insis­tence that ceci n’est pas un pipe[9]); a small rec­tan­gle in the upper right-hand cor­ner indi­cat­ing the place for a stamp; and a tiny cap­tion print­ed neat­ly along the side that refers to an absent image. The sender’s mes­sage reads: “note lit­tle town at right colour of mts in ear­ly morn­ing is mar­vel­lous [sic] a small lake – Lin­nett – is near – [indis­cernible] me – fed by springs many birds around it.”

Two obser­va­tions about this gos­samer object: the absence of the tra­di­tion­al recto/verso structure—she has super­im­posed the ver­so on to the recto—and the neat­ly print­ed cap­tion, CANADIAN ROCKIES HOTEL CO., ref­er­ences a non-exis­tent pho­to­graph, a sign with no ref­er­ent. The super­im­po­si­tion of front and back shows the entan­gle­ment of pub­lic with pri­vate, nation­al visions with per­son­al mes­sages, and mass pro­duc­tion with sin­gu­lar expe­ri­ence (see Der­ri­da, “The Post Card”; Engle 54). The absent image implies a process of abstrac­tion: some­thing mate­r­i­al and tan­gi­ble has been tak­en away. This blank square on the trac­ing paper is not mere­ly emp­ty space; it marks a removal so appar­ent­ly com­plete as to leave noth­ing but a ghost­ly white­ness behind. The cap­tion sug­gests that the miss­ing image is most like­ly a repro­duc­tion of a devot­ed­ly touris­tic space, the Prince of Wales Hotel on Water­ton Lake, since this hotel sits on the same hill as Riggall’s and Smith’s pho­tographs. The hotel promis­es an expe­ri­ence of the clas­si­cal­ly pic­turesque:

A true his­toric icon, the Prince of Wales Hotel offers an expe­ri­ence like no oth­er. Views from the hotel lob­by and lawn are mag­nif­i­cent panora­mas of Water­ton Lake and the sur­round­ing moun­tains. The Prince of Wales Hotel is the per­fect place to escape the every­day and immerse your­self in the mag­ic of the moun­tains and the his­to­ry of Water­ton Lakes Nation­al Park. (“Prince of Wales Hotel”)[10]

Beyond the obser­va­tion that these views seem to exist to be con­sumed, the every­day is also pic­tured as alien to this love­ly scene. The deep irony in the hotel’s ad copy—that tourists can expe­ri­ence his­to­ry here while leav­ing behind their ordi­nary everyday—is of course the fact that this place had been a loca­tion for an indige­nous every­day for at least 10,000 years before con­tact (Reeves, “Native Peo­ples” 39). The hotel’s exis­tence is premised upon the abstrac­tion of all this ordi­nary busi­ness of sur­vival.

Did Rig­gall trav­el with the Niit­si­tapi?[11] Did he ask them to step aside so they were out­side of the frame, or did he just not see them as part of the world he was record­ing? The orphaned cap­tion forces us to con­front the absence of what we expect and know to be present. It asks us to imag­ine a dif­fer­ent pic­ture of the nation­al land­scape.[12]

Dis-orientation

I count at least 31 attempts at repli­ca­tion in this selec­tion of files, though she notes on the back of one of these Polaroids that she had, by August 3rd, 2008, made 49 pho­tographs. She keeps a record for most of these pic­tures, some­times not­ing only the date and oth­er times list­ing weath­er con­di­tions, expo­sure num­ber, sit­ing clues, and the occa­sion­al feel­ings of frus­tra­tion, despair, and tedi­um. On August 3rd, 2008, she writes on the back of expo­sure 10:

Here is the thing. There’s no viewfind­er on the cam­era, real­ly, so I’ve been learn­ing about it—moving, point­ing, expos­ing the film, walk­ing to the research house, devel­op­ing the film, going for cof­fee while it dries, scan­ning it, over­lay­ing it with a scan of the orig­i­nal, mak­ing cal­cu­la­tions, going back, walk­ing up the hill, shoot­ing more pho­tos. They all look like it, none look like it. Rig­gall appar­ent­ly had a tri­pod thread­ing for the cam­era on his sad­dle horn. Fail­ure pro­vides open­ings, all the oth­er­wise begin to take shape.

She fol­lows him—obsessively, com­pul­sive­ly. She uses par­al­lax to stand in his shad­ow and see through his eyes, but what she learns from par­al­lax is impos­si­bil­i­ty.[13] The rea­sons for this are both con­crete and abstract. First, the con­crete: the town has grown in size; the snow in Riggall’s pic­ture has melt­ed away; ero­sion has altered the shape of the hill; and trees have come and gone.[14] As mark­ers of cli­mate change and human inter­ven­tion, the envi­ron­men­tal shifts are sig­nif­i­cant clues for mea­sur­ing all the mate­r­i­al rea­sons she will nev­er repli­cate Riggall’s pho­to­graph. Philo­soph­i­cal­ly, how­ev­er, Slavoj Žižek reminds us that with par­al­lax, “the observed dif­fer­ence is not sim­ply ‘sub­jec­tive,’ due to the fact that the same object which exists ‘out there’ is seen from two dif­fer­ent sta­tions, or points of view. It is rather that…subject and object are inher­ent­ly ‘medi­at­ed,’ so that an ‘epis­te­mo­log­i­cal’ shift in the subject's point of view always reflects an ‘onto­log­i­cal’ shift in the object itself” (17). She can­not see through his eyes. Rig­gall saw him­self in every pic­ture he made, just as she sees her­self in each attempt at repli­ca­tion. In her eyes, he will always be spec­tral and her Water­ton will vibrate with all of the his­to­ries that he could not pic­ture.[15]

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Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. Cam­era Luci­da: Reflec­tions on Pho­tog­ra­phy. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982. Print.

Ben­jamin, Wal­ter. “Lit­tle His­to­ry of Pho­tog­ra­phy.” Wal­ter Ben­jamin: Select­ed Writ­ings, Vol­ume 2: Part 2: 1931-1934. 2003. Eds. Michael W. Jen­nings, Howard Eiland and Gary Smith. Cam­bridge, Mass: Belk­nap Press, 2005. 507-530. Print.

---. “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Tech­no­log­i­cal Repro­ducibil­i­ty.” Wal­ter Ben­jamin: Select­ed Writ­ings, Vol­ume 4: 1938-1940. Eds. Michael W. Jen­nings, Howard Eiland and Gary Smith. Cam­bridge, Mass: Belk­nap Press, 2003. 251-283. Print.

Der­ri­da, Jacques. Archive Fever: A Freudi­an Impres­sion. 1995. Trans. Eric Prenowitz. Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty Of Chica­go Press, 1998. Print.

---. “Sig­na­ture Event Con­text.” Mar­gins of Phi­los­o­phy. Trans. Alan Bass. Reprint edi­tion. Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty Of Chica­go Press, 1984. 307-330. Print.

---. The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. Trans. Alan Bass. Chica­go: Uni­ver­si­ty Of Chica­go Press, 1987. Print.

Engle, Karen. See­ing Ghosts: 9/11 and the Visu­al Imag­i­na­tion. Mon­tre­al: McGill-Queens Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2009. Print.

Fonds Whyte – 1106 – Bert Rig­gall Fonds.” Alber­ta on Record. Archives Soci­ety of Alber­ta, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Kingston, Anne. “Van­ish­ing Cana­da: Why We’re All Losers in Canada’s War on Data.” Macleans​.ca. N.P., 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Merewether, Charles, ed. The Archive. 1st edi­tion. Cam­bridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2006. Print.

Prince of Wales Hotel in Water­ton Park | Glac­i­er Park Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

Reeves, Bri­an. “Native Peo­ples and Archae­ol­o­gy of Water­ton Glac­i­er Inter­na­tion­al Peace Park.” Sus­tain­ing Rocky Moun­tain Land­scapes: “Sci­ence, Pol­i­cy, and Man­age­ment for the Crown of the Con­ti­nent Ecosys­tem.” Eds. Tony Pra­to and Dan Fagre. Wash­ing­ton, DC: Rout­ledge, 2007. 39-54. Print

---. “Ninaistákis – the Nitsitapii’s Sacred Moun­tain: Tra­di­tion­al Native Reli­gious Activ­i­ties and Land Use/Tourism Con­flicts.” Sacred Sites, Sacred Places. Ed. David Carmichael, et al. Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 1994. 265-294. Print.

Sebald, W. G. Auster­litz. Toron­to: Vin­tage Cana­da, 2002. Print.

Smith, Tru­di Lynn. Field Notes 2008: Track­er. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.

---. “Repeat Pho­tog­ra­phy as a Method in Visu­al Anthro­pol­o­gy.” Visu­al Anthro­pol­o­gy 20.2/3 (2007): 179–200. Print.

---. “The Anthro­pol­o­gy of His­tor­i­cal Pho­tog­ra­phy in a Pro­tect­ed Area: Life and Death in Water­ton Lakes Nation­al Park, Alber­ta.” Anthro­po­log­i­ca 56.2 (2014): 117–133. Print.

Stew­art, Kath­leen. Ordi­nary Affects. Durham, NC: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2007. Print.

Ware, Chris. Build­ing Sto­ries. Box Pack edi­tion. New York: Pan­theon, 2012. Print.

Wolk, Dou­glas. “Inside the Box: ‘Build­ing Sto­ries,’ by Chris Ware.” New York Times. 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 July 2016.

Wol­laeger, Mark. Mod­ernism, Media, and Pro­pa­gan­da: British Nar­ra­tive from 1900 to 1945. Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008. Print.

Wong, Yoke-Sum. “Beyond (and Below) Incom­men­su­ra­bil­i­ty.” Com­mon Knowl­edge 8.2 (2002): 333–357. Print.

Žižek, Slavoj. The Par­al­lax View (Cam­bridge: MIT Press, 2006). Print.

Image Notes

 

All images Tru­di Lynn Smith.

Copy­rights of all illus­tra­tions reside with the authors.

Notes

[*] I write this dur­ing a tran­si­tion­al moment in Cana­di­an polit­i­cal his­to­ry. Justin Trudeau and the Lib­er­al Par­ty have just been elect­ed to a major­i­ty gov­ern­ment, oust­ing Stephen Harp­er and the Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty of Cana­da from over 8 years of gov­ern­ing. While this elec­tion is seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed to the essay I am writ­ing here, the issues addressed here regard­ing the his­to­ry of pho­tog­ra­phy and the colo­nial imag­i­na­tion in Cana­da have become inex­tri­ca­bly entwined with the for­mer Harp­er government’s prac­tices of infor­ma­tion man­age­ment. As Anne Kingston details in her Maclean’s arti­cle, “Van­ish­ing Cana­da: Why We’re All Losers in Ottawa’s War on Data,” the Harp­er government’s com­mit­ment to destroy­ing data and his­tor­i­cal records has pro­duced an utter­ly bizarre con­tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion in which entire com­mu­ni­ties are no longer represented—a dis­as­ter for policy-making—and researchers will be unable to under­take com­par­a­tive, lon­gi­tu­di­nal stud­ies (Sep­tem­ber 18, 2015). Repeat pho­tog­ra­phy, the method under­tak­en by Smith in this project, is only pos­si­ble so long as archives are pre­served. Despite the selec­tive and exclu­sion­ary nature of any archive, they are a cru­cial resource through which writ­ers and artists can re-imag­ine his­to­ry. I write today with a ten­ta­tive sense of hope, and while the future may prove me naïve, this hope has also inflect­ed the way I under­stand Tru­di Lynn Smith’s project of using pho­tog­ra­phy to show us a dif­fer­ent view of Water­ton Nation­al Park.

[1] Through­out this essay, “her” and “she” refer to Tru­di Smith, visu­al anthro­pol­o­gist and artist. See: http://​trudi​lynn​smith​.com/ for more infor­ma­tion on her work.

[2] The con­ven­tion of pic­tur­ing Cana­da as so many “land­scape paint­ings” comes from Eng­lish impe­r­i­al tra­di­tions and must be under­stood in the con­text of the emer­gence of nation­al parks as sup­posed zones of pro­tec­tion (Smith, “The Anthro­pol­o­gy” 125). As so many schol­ars have not­ed, the iden­ti­ty of nation­al parks relies upon a colo­nial and racist notion of the land as pris­tine and unin­hab­it­ed. The pic­tures gen­er­at­ed by 19th- and ear­ly-20th-cen­tu­ry explor­ers of the land were fun­da­men­tal to solid­i­fy­ing this myth and its dis­sem­i­na­tion through gen­er­a­tions of set­tler Cana­di­ans (Smith, “The Anthro­pol­o­gy” 125).

[3] Smith first saw the image at the Whyte Muse­um and again, lat­er, at the Pinch­er Muse­um. A friend, how­ev­er, sent the post­card copy that is in her archive. Thanks to Smith for this clar­i­fy­ing detail.

[4] See Kath­leen Stewart’s dis­cus­sion of ordi­nary affects as “Some­thing throws itself togeth­er in a moment as an event and a sen­sa­tion; a some­thing both ani­mat­ed and inhab­it­able.… [They are] mov­ing things—things that are in motion and that are defined by their capac­i­ty to affect and to be affected—they have to be mapped through dif­fer­ent, coex­ist­ing forms of com­po­si­tion, habit­u­a­tion, and event” (1, 4; orig­i­nal empha­sis).

[5] The repro­duc­tion includes the equip­ment she uses: “I arrange with his grand­son to use the exact cam­era that Rig­gall shot this pho­to­graph with, the Kodak Panoram No. 1” (Smith, “Field Notes 2008”). The irony of being unable to repro­duce a pho­to­graph she finds on a pic­ture post­card (an item of mass repro­duc­tion) with tech­nol­o­gy designed for repro­duc­tion is note­wor­thy.

[6] As Der­ri­da writes, “This struc­tur­al pos­si­bil­i­ty of being sev­ered from its ref­er­ent or signified…seems to me to make of every mark…the non­pre­sent remain­ing of a dif­fer­en­tial mark cut off from its alleged ‘pro­duc­tion of ori­gins’” (“Sig­na­ture Event Con­text” 318). These tiny frag­ments per­form heavy labour for the archive. They are visu­al indi­ca­tors of what I under­stand as a com­plex cri­tique of ori­gins. Using photography—that tech­nol­o­gy of repro­duc­tion that dis­solves the notion of an original—Smith sev­ers frag­ments from an unknown set of lost orig­i­nals that began their life as copies (Ben­jamin, “The Work of Art”). More­over, she does not pro­vide us with pieces that can be put back togeth­er to make a clear pic­ture. Instead, we are left with noth­ing but shards that look like noth­ing at all, the remains of one (or sev­er­al) orig­i­nal copy (or copies). These four tiny pieces gen­er­ate an apo­r­ia through which we must trav­el in order to assem­ble any pic­ture of his­to­ry.

[7]Smith’s inky inte­ri­or is akin to the only colour pho­to­graph Barthes uses in Cam­era Luci­da (1980), Daniel Boudinet’s Polaroid (1979)—an image that asks us to med­i­tate on dark­ened inte­ri­ors and what the light may or may not reveal.

[8] As Dou­glas Wolk describes in his review of Build­ing Sto­ries, “You will nev­er be able to read ‘Build­ing Sto­ries’ on a dig­i­tal tablet, by design. It is a phys­i­cal object, print­ed on wood pulp, darn it. It’s a big, stur­dy box, con­tain­ing 14 dif­fer­ent ‘eas­i­ly mis­placed elements’—a hard-bound vol­ume or two, pam­phlets and leaflets of var­i­ous dimen­sions, a mon­strous­ly huge tabloid à la cen­tu­ry-old Sun­day news­pa­per comics sec­tions and a fold­ed board of the sort that might once have come with a fan­cy game. In which order should one read them? What­ev­er, Ware shrugs, unchar­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly relin­quish­ing his cus­tom­ary absolute con­trol. In the world of ‘Build­ing Sto­ries,’ lin­ear­i­ty leads only to decay and death” (“Inside the Box”).

[9] Magritte’s infa­mous semi­otic joke shows us how repro­duc­tions nev­er give access to the thing itself. Smith’s pseu­do post­card, ren­dered on the most del­i­cate of trac­ing paper, sug­gests the fragili­ty of her quest to repro­duce Riggall’s pho­to­graph and the ulti­mate impos­si­bil­i­ty of occu­py­ing his exact posi­tion. It is a won­der­ful minia­tur­iza­tion of the chal­lenges involved in his­to­ri­o­graph­ic work.

[10] Since the ini­tial writ­ing of this essay, the web­site text has been mod­i­fied.

[11] As Reeves details: “Inten­sive archae­o­log­i­cal research in Water­ton Lakes Nation­al Park has demon­strat­ed a long and essen­tial­ly con­tin­u­ous record of Native occu­pa­tion extend­ing back some 10,000 years” (“Ninaistákis” 291).

[12] Smith reminds us that “Absences count as much as presences…Survey pho­tog­ra­phy is not close-up views of geo­log­i­cal detail, por­traits of peo­ple you know, indige­nous guides or exist­ing path­ways. While their pho­tog­ra­phy denied these pos­si­bil­i­ties through omis­sion, the sur­vey­ors encoun­tered more than they recorded…These polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions of pho­to­graph­ic visu­al­i­ty deny the very access points that made the views pos­si­ble” (The Anthro­pol­o­gy of His­tor­i­cal Pho­tog­ra­phy” 126-27).

[13] Smith explains: “Most repeat pho­tog­ra­phers take advan­tage of par­al­lax, the appar­ent motion of an object against a back­ground due to a change in observ­er posi­tion, in order to site their cam­eras” (“Repeat Pho­tog­ra­phy” 197-98).

[14] These are all pen­ciled nota­tions on top of an expo­sure from July 29th, 2008.

[15] This rela­tion of spec­tral­i­ty is anal­o­gous to Derrida’s descrip­tion of the archive: “the struc­ture of the archive is spectral…neither present nor absent ‘in the flesh’…a trace always refer­ring to anoth­er whose eyes can nev­er be met…” (“Archive Fever” 89). The method­ol­o­gy of this essay is intend­ed to reflect both the frag­men­tary and spec­tral struc­ture of Smith’s project.