Nathaniel Brunt

Study program:
PhD Communication and Culture
Current affiliation:
Ryerson University

Nathaniel Brunt (communication and culture, Ryerson University) studies how well stories and photos of the conflict in the Kashmir Valley capture the many facets of the difficult reality on the ground.


The Country Without a Post Office: a ‘metaphotographic’ history of Kashmir’s insurgency

This doctoral research investigates the ongoing conflict in India’s contested Kashmir Valley through a combination of cultural historical research, documentary photography, and archival practice. The project involves recording oral testimony, photographic production and collection, digitizing and making publicly accessible photographs from both institutional and private collections as a critical means of visualizing historical scholarship. In this research, photography does not simply serve as an illustrative appendage, but is fundamentally interwoven with the written dissertation as an equally significant analytic mode of communication. By integrating a wide variety of collected material with his own photographs and writing, Nathaniel seeks to reflexively acknowledge the limitations of his own viewpoint, and situate it within a historical narrative told from a multiplicity of subjective and often conflicting local perspectives that are directly reflective of the lack of factual consensus about the region’s troubled history.

Nathaniel Brunt is an award-winning interdisciplinary scholar, photographer and educator. His photographic and academic work critically examines modern armed conflict and the way it is, and has been, represented photographically. Trained as a cultural historian and documentary photographer, he is interested in the manner in which individuals, institutions and groups understand and make sense of their worlds visually during wartime.

Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, Nathaniel obtained two master’s degrees, from the University of Kent’s War, Media and Society program and the Communication and Culture joint program at Ryerson and York universities. His first thesis, “The Blue Bench: Medicine, Photography and the First World War Facial Wound,” examined the photographic history and social experiences of facially disfigured British soldiers during the First World War. His second master’s project, which was supported by SSHRC and The Alexia Foundation, was “#shaheed: A Photographic Study of Kashmir’s Insurgency.” It used photographs, both collected and produced, to explore the lives of young Kashmiri militants fighting in the ongoing insurgency in the region. In fall 2017, Nathaniel was an Alexia Foundation visiting scholar at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Nathaniel’s photographic work has been featured in The Globe and Mail, Sharp Magazine, Photo District News and other publications. It has also been exhibited in Canada and internationally. He has received academic and photographic awards, including the CONTACT Portfolio Reviews Award, SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship, IVSA John Rieger Award, PDN Photo Annual Student Award, and the Alexia Foundation Student Award. Nathaniel is co-director, with Alisha Sett, of the Kashmir Photo Collective, a digital resource of endangered photographs and related material about the histories of the Kashmir Valley. While diverse in format, Nathaniel’s work is connected by a commitment to producing creative projects that personalize the often-abstract nature of modern war.

  • March 1, 2019
    From February 28th to March 9th, 2018 Scholar Nathaniel Brunt is showing work at the Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Nathaniel’s work is part of the exhibition "Archives of Persistence". Chobi Mela is considered the most significant photographic event in Asia since its inception in 2000.
  • June 21, 2018
    The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation appoints fifteen doctoral scholars across the country Outstanding students in the social sciences and humanities see their careers taking off.