Isabel Wade

Dornsife Fellow in General Education
Isabel Wade


Dr. Isabel Frampton Wade is an art historian who specializes in the history of photography, modern art, and visual culture of the United States, with a particular focus on California and the transnational American West. In particular, she considers how photography—as well as its modes of circulation and contexts of display—has shaped the development and politics of urban modernity. Isabel is also a digital humanities specialist, with particular interest in integrating art historical research with geospatial analysis and data visualization. She received her PhD in art history from the University of Southern California in 2023, where she also completed the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate.

Isabel is at work on her first book project, Planning for Order: Architectural Photography, Urban Representation, and Modernism in Los Angeles, a history of commercial architectural photography in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1980. It addresses how architectural photographs in diverse print contexts—including public housing advertisements, photobooks, magazines, and exhibition catalogues—modeled a visual politics of urbanism that influenced how artists, architects, and city planners engaged with cities across the country. A second project, which includes a digital humanities component, tentatively titled Border Town Modern: Art, Architecture, and Racialized Visual Culture Between San Diego and Tijuana, 1900-1936, charts the rise of an itinerant urban visuality defined by its fluid development through the United States-Mexico border. I consider how Latinx and White racial identity became encoded in this visual culture not only through pervasive revival architectural styles but through the cultural politics, imaginaries, and identities of the national border. 

She has writing forthcoming in American Art (fall 2024) and is a co-editor on the digital publication, Ed Ruscha’s Streets of Los Angeles: Artist, Image, City, Archive (Getty Resesarch Institute Publications, 2024), to which she contributed an essay. Her work has been supported by the Luce Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies, the Center for Creative Photography, and the Huntington Library, among others. She received her MA in art history from the University of Southern California and a BA in art history from the University of Chicago. 


  • Ph.D. Art History, University of Southern California, 8/2023
  • M.A. Art History, University of Southern California, 8/2018
  • BA Univ Chicago, 6/2015
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