The Topley Studio fonds housed at Library and Archives Canada is one of the most widely consulted sources of late nineteenth and twentieth century photographs. Yet most existing literature on the photographer, William James Topley (1845-1930) and his Ottawa studio, has been framed within an approach that privileges style and the notion of artistic genius. This thesis instead examines photographs produced by the Topley Studio, while considering their broader socio-historical context. Focusing on photographic portraits of various ‘classes’ of Victorian women and men, and the spaces they
occupied, this study reveals connections between identity formation, photographic practice and the politics of representation. From examinations of staged photographs of costumed participants in the Dufferin Grand Fancy Ball to images documenting female inmates of the Home for Friendless Women and the Carleton County Gaol, this thesis explores visual representations of gender, class and race in late nineteenth-century Ottawa.