Toronto's Ryerson gets Black Star Agency collection

Mar 31, 2005
Toronto Canada
This is huge news here. An anonymous donator has given Ryerson University (mainly for the arts, a lot of people behind the cameras in Hollywood are Ryerson folks).
"Nearly 300,000 photographs, many considered iconic works by master photographers and photojournalists, amassed by the Black Star Agency in New York, have been donated to Ryerson University, along with $7 million that will be used to build a gallery in which the images can be exhibited, preserved and studied."

"University officials declined to name the benefactor of the historically significant catalogue of prints and images, many of which contain the photographers' and photo editors' original captions, notations and crop marks.

Among the works in the Black Star Historical Black and White Photography Collection are images that appeared in Life, the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Times and Newsweek. Most of the pictures are American, dating primarily from 1935 through the 1980s, but the collection also has some Canadian images, including René Lévesque and William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Inuit community of Baker Lake and Expo '67.

The acquisition marks "one of Ryerson University's decisive moments," said university president Claude Lajeunesse at the announcement in Ryerson's Centre for Computing and Engineering yesterday. His remark was a nod to influential French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who strived to capture what he called "the decisive moment" in his photographs. Bresson's work, along with that of photographers such as W. Eugene Smith, Charles Moore, Roman Vishniac and Bill Burke, are featured in the collection."
"The agency was started by Kurt Safranksi, Kurt Kornfeld and Ernest Mayer, who fled Hitler's Germany in 1935 for New York. Mayer brought 5,000 photographs from his Berlin-based agency and continued to buy work from photographers still in Germany. A year later, Life was launched. It accounted for between 30 and 40 per cent of Black Star's early business.

Around the same time, the 35- mm camera came into widespread use, giving photographers the speed to capture candid, rather than posed, images.

The collection helps Ryerson consolidate its position as an international centre for photographic studies, said Ira Levine, dean of the faculty of communication and design. Last month, Kodak Canada donated its company archives to the university library. Ryerson also received the extensive collection of photographic books, catalogues and periodicals of Nicholas and Marilyn Graver of Rochester, N.Y.

In September, the School of Image Arts launched a two-year graduate degree in photographic preservation in partnership with Eastman House in New York. So far, the program has attracted equal interest from Canadian and American students, and its first cohort also includes students from China and Spain."

The gallery is at least two years away from being built, it will house all the photos. Until then, on researchers can view these photos by appointment. The photographs are being kept in museum-quality storage until the facility is built. I can hardly wait to spend a rainy weekend seeing them all. A LOT of history is in these photos.
So folks, time to plan a trip to Toronto in a few years - these photos will be a 'must see' on your list. Cheers, Sandi
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