Trudi Lynn Smith

Finding Aid
The pleasure in a good view

Trudi Lynn Smith, "Finding Aid"

Finding Aid is a perpetual work in response to the question “what happens when I try to re-enact a photographic moment”? Since 2002, I have been attempting to answer this deceptively simple question using archival photographs in Canadian National Parks. Formulated around reenactment, I take archival photographs on a walk and attempt to repeat them as ethnographic investigation and as visual art inquiry. This practice is fuelled by the play between the attempt to replicate the photographic act as closely as possible (for example through spatial location, time of day, season, camera type, darkroom procedures) and the revelation that the more the attempt is refined, or the closer one gets, the more distance is felt. However, to attempt to re-enact a photograph is a productive failure, one that provides a great deal of knowledge about the conditions surrounding the production of an historical photographic event. The outcome of this practice is an archive of documents including photographs, text, video, drawings, and ephemera that I compile and then I mine for exhibition.

Finding Aid: The pleasure in a good view, is an archive that records my quest to perfectly re-locate one historical photograph taken in Banff National Park, (a park considered the jewel in the Crown of Canada’s National Park system). This installation is a product of an artist residency at the Banff Centre, wherein I investigated the popular Lake Louise area, focusing on an early 20th century postcard entitled, Lake Agnes and the Beehive. Exploring the possibility of returning to the exact location of the historical postcard, this work reports back my experience to the viewer as a hybrid installation, performance and an archive to converse with the history of photography. A finding aid is a tool that is found in archives to describe records and is often found as a card index, an inventory or a register. In this work I not only produce a finding aid to the work, but I am the finding aid: I am present in the gallery installing and working on the archive, and interacting with visitors during gallery hours. A table holds the archive and stools form a work space and loitering spot for browsing the archive. When I am not present, the archive is still ‘in process’ and visitors become performers in the subtle act of browsing and shuffling files, sitting and looking, as well as sorting and reading.


Trudi Lynn Smith brings anthropology, art and curatorial practice to bear on her studies of place. Currently finishing her PhD in the Departments of Anthropology and Visual Arts at the University of Victoria, she will take up a Post-Doctoral position at York University in January 2011. Since 2002, she has conducted image-based research into the relationship between photography and national park landscapes in Canada, and how the two constitute one other. In 2007, Trudi participated in the residency “Walking and Art” at the Banff Centre for the Arts where she furthered her exploration of the photograph as event, that is, how photographs are not only something to look at, or objects we can hold, but also acts grounded in place. She is particularly interested in bringing together the methods of art practice and social research and published Repeat Photography as Method in Visual Anthropology in Visual Anthropology (2007). Recent and upcoming exhibitions include Finding Aid at The Southern Alberta Art Gallery (2010), Portable Camera Obscura at the Crane Arts as a part of Ethnographic Terminalia (2009), onsite works in Waterton Lakes National Park (2008-2010) and Conduit (with Jamie Drouin) at Open Space Gallery (2011). At present she is engaged in producing installations and bookworks that play with the truth of photography and the always fleeting present. In pursuit of the fleeting moment, she guides invited participants on quests to relocate historical photographs and to install the work Portable Camera Obscura in remote locations of the Canadian wilderness.