Elspeth H. Brown

Professor & Interim Associate Vice Principal Research (through June 30, 2020) Historical Studies - History
Office Location:
MN 4278
Office Hours:
Please refer to syllabus and/or contact via email.
3359 Mississauga Road, Maanjiwe nendamowinan, 4th floor
Mississauga , ON
L5L 1C6

I am Professor of History at the University of Toronto, where I teach queer and trans history; the history of US capitalism; oral history; and the history and theory of photography. I earned my PhD from Yale University's program in American Studies in 2000. My work has been supported by the Getty Research Institute; the National Museum of American History; the American Council of Learned Societies; the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada; the Library of Congress Kluge Center; the American Philosophical Society, and others. 

I am the author of Work! A Queer History of Modelling (Duke, 2019) and the award-winning The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884-1929 (Johns Hopkins, 2005). I am co-editor of Feeling Photography (Duke, 2014, with Thy Phu), “Queering Photography,” a special issue of Photography and Culture (2014), and Cultures of Commerce: Representation and American Business Culture, 1877-1960 (Palgrave, 2006). 

 I am the principle investigator for the LGBTQ Oral History Digital Collaboratory, a team-based project and virtual working space where members come together to share work, ideas, and new knowledge about the creation of LGBTQ oral histories in the digital age. Our team members are specialist in LGBTQ history, trans studies, and oral history. Our team includes faculty, grad students, archivists, and librarians from archives and universities across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. This project is funded by the Social Science Humanities and Research Council of Canada and runs until 2019.

I am also co-investigator for the Family Camera Network collaborative research project, where my research focuses on queer and trans family photography and oral history, in the context of global migration. More broadly, the Family Camera Network is a collaborative project that explores the relationship between photography and the idea of family, whether of origin or of choice, as is the case with LGBTQ+ communities. In Canada, approaches to family have expanded in response to cultural shifts including: same-sex marriage, transnational adoptions, dislocations to pursue economic opportunities or prompted by political instability, climate change, or war. Personal photographs document feelings about family, how family is defined, and connections to loved ones who may be separated due to dislocation. The Family Camera Network has produced a number of exciting projects, including an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum, a major scholarly conference, titled "Reframing Family Photography" at the University of Toronto in 2017, and a May 2018 exhibition that I am co-curating with Thy Phy entitled "Queering Family Photography" at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, a Featured Exhibition of the CONTACT International Photography Festival.

I am an active volunteer and Vice President of the Board at The Arquives: Canada’s Lesbian and Gay Archives, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ community archive.


Please also refer to for Professor Brown's completed and on-going scholarly research.


Books & Journals

  • Sexual Capital: A Queer History of Modeling, 1909-1983 (monograph forthcoming, Duke University Press)
  • Feeling Photography (Duke University Press, 2014; co-editor, with Thy Phu)
  • Queering Photography: a special issue of the journal Photography and Culture.
    Co-editor. Volume 7, #3 (November, 2014).
  • The Corporate Eye: Photography and the Rationalization of American Commercial Culture, 1884-1929 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); recipient of the 2005 Awards for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing, given by the Association of American Publishing, for the best book in Business, Management & Accounting.
  • Cultures of Commerce: Representation and American Business Culture, 1877-1960 (368 pp). Co-editor with Marina Moskowitz and Catherine Gudis Palgrave/MacMillan (May 2006).

Articles (selected)

  • “Feeling in Photography: From the Affective Turn to the History of Emotions,” co-written with 2 other authors, Thy Phu and Andrea Noble, in Routledge volume on Theory in Photography 2017 (forthcoming)
  • “Queering Glamour in Interwar Fashion Photography: The “Amorous Regard” of George Platt Lynes,” GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies 2017 (forthcoming)
  • “Trans/Feminist Oral History: Current Projects.” TSQ: The Transgender Studies Quarterly vol. 2 no. 4 (November 2015), pp. 666-672.
  • “’Queering the Trans* Family Album’: Elspeth H. Brown and Sara Davidmann, in Conversation,” Radical History Review issue 122 (May, 2015), pp. 188-200.
  •  “The Commodification of Aesthetic Feeling: Race, Sexuality and the 1920s Stage Models,” Feminist Studies, volume 40, no. 1, 2014, pp. 65-97
  • “From Artist’s Model to the ‘Natural Girl’: Containing Sexuality in Early Twentieth Century Modeling,” in Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger, eds., Fashion Models: Modeling as Image, Text, and Industry (forthcoming, Berg, 2012). 
  • “Labor, Management, and Photography as “Social Hieroglyphic”: N.C.R. and the Social Museum Collection,” in Deborah Martin Koa, ed., The New Social Order (Yale University Press, forthcoming 2012)
  • “Black Models and the Invention of the U.S. ‘Negro Market,’ 1945-1960” in Detlev Zwick and Julien Cayla, eds., Inside Marketing: Practices, Ideologies, Devices (Oxford University Press, 2011), 185-211.
  • “De Meyer at Vogue: Commercializing Queer Affect in WWI-era Fashion Photography,” Photography and Culture, November 2009 vol. 2, issue 3, 253-275.
  • “Welfare Capitalism and Documentary Photography: N.C.R. and the Visual Production of a Global Model Factory” History of Photography vol. 32, no. 2 (summer 2008), 137-151.
  • “Marlboro Men, Modeling, and Outsider Masculinities in Postwar America,” in Reggie Blaszczyk, ed., Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers  (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, October 2007), 187-207. [April 2009: came out in paperback].
  • "Racializing the Masculine Body: Eadweard Muybridge's Locomotion Studies, 1883-1887," special issue of Gender and History on "Visuality and Gender,” vol. 17, no. 3, November 2005, 1-30.
  • "Reading the Visual Record," in Ardis Cameron, ed. Looking for America: An Historical Introduction to the Visual in American Studies, 1900-2000 (Blackwell, 2005), 362-370.
  • "Technology, Culture, and the Body in Modern America," American Quarterly. Vol. 56, no. 2 (June, 2004), 449-460.
  • “The Prosthetics of Management: Motion Study, Photography, and the Industrialized Body in World War I America,” in Katherine Ott, David Serlin, and Stephen Minm, eds., Artifical Parts, Practical Lives (NYU Press, 2002): 249-281.
  • "Rationalizing Consumption: Photography and Commercial Illustration, 1913-1919," Enterprise and Society (Oxford University Press), vol. 1 no. 4 (December 2000): 715-738.


US 1877-present; the cultural history of capitalism; the history and theory of photography; and queer and trans* history and theory.
Ph.D. Yale University