James Levinsohn

PhD Candidate


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • History, theory, and criticism of photography
  • Photography as contemporary art (post-1960)
  • Documentary photography
  • Realism after modernism
  • German modern/contemporary art
  • Theories of space, embodiment, sensoriality, and subjectivity
  • Psychoanalysis and its legacy
  • Postmodernism and postmodernity
  • Urbanism and urban space
  • Vernacular photography
  • Gender/sexuality, esp. sexual minority cultures 

Working Dissertation


Realism Beyond Redemption: The Fetish Character of Photographic Postmodernism


Louis Kaplan
John Paul Ricco
Jordan Bear


James M. Levinsohn is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Toronto. Broadly speaking, his research focuses on figurative realism's persistence in photography and other media over the course of the twentieth century in Europe and North America, particularly when its deployment has reflected new historical conditions of sexuality, subjectivity, and urban space. He holds a BA in Art History with Honours from the University of Chicago (2012) and an MA in Art History from Rutgers University (2017), where he also taught in the Department of Art History as a Part-Time Lecturer. He has held curatorial positions at the Roman Vishniac Archive of the International Center of Photography (ICP), Museum of Modern Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

Selected Publications

  • “Unreal, Purely Formal Relations”: Realism in Christian Schad’s Drawings of Queer Nightspots for Ein Führer durch das ‘lasterhafte’ Berlin (1931)". Ikonotheka No. 32, "Queer Heritage: Central Europe and Beyond". Forthcoming early 2023.
  • Catalogue entries for "Untitled (urban panorama)" and "Untitled (Ice Houses)" by Catherine Opie. In The Public Image: Social Documentary Photography from the Collection of the Zimmerli Art Museum, edited by Donna Gustafson and Andres Mario Zervigon. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Dept. of Art History and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2016, pp. 30–32. https://issuu.com/zimmerli/docs/ebook.zim_thepublicimage_b4

Recent Awards

  • Mary H. Beatty Fellowship, 2021–22
  • W. Bernard Herman Fellowship, University of Toronto, 2021–22
  • UTM Graduate Expansion Fund Grants, 2020, 2021, 2022


MA, Rutgers University, Art History, 2017
BA, Art History with Honours, University of Chicago, 2012


“Augmenting the Closet: Stonewall Forever (2019) as Unfinished Digital Monument”, Works in Process: Dimensions of Becoming in the Arts, DFG Research Group Dimensions of techne in the Fine Arts. Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. 6 October 2022.
“Re-Staging the Grecian Ideal: The Formation of Modern Gay Male Identity in the Pages of Grecian Guild Pictorial, ca. 1960”, RASC/a Art History Graduate Student Conference: Untethered Subjects, Southern Methodist University, Texas, USA. 14 April 2018.
“Re-Staging the Grecian Ideal: The Formation of Modern Gay Male Identity in the Pages of Grecian Guild Pictorial, ca. 1960”, at Figuring it Out: Bodies and the History of Art, Zimmerli Museum, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA. 10 April 2015.

Administrative Service

Co-Chair, Wollesen Memorial Symposium Committee, University of Toronto Dept. of Art History, 2019-2020
Managing Editor, Rutgers Art Review Volume 33/34 (2018)
Co-Chair, Distinguished Speaker Series Committee, Rutgers University Dept. of Art History, 2015-2017
Co-Chair, Student/Faculty Symposium Committee, Rutgers University Dept. of Art History, 2015-2016