University of Toronto's Allen Ginsberg Photography Collection
The University of Toronto announced today the receipt, thanks to a bequest by the Larry and Cookie Rossy Family Foundation, of 7,686 photographs and 236 silver gelatin prints (including many original snapshots and uniquely-inscribed prints), making them now home to, undoubtedly the world's largest collection of Allen Ginsberg photographs.
The photographs span the years between 1944 and 1997 and comprise pretty much a complete collection of Allen's extraordinary picture-taking career.
"This is an exciting and remarkable gift", declared U of T President Marc Gertler, "(a)..truly fascinating collection". Others went further, "This fabulous collection provides both scholars and students alike unique entree to Ginsberg's passionate eye and helps to confirm his status as a major 20th-Century American poet with the camera", declares photography and new media professor, Louis Kaplan - "One cannot overestimate its [the collection's] photo-historical, pedagogical and cultural value."
This Fall the two institutions will collaborate to present an exhibition of Ginsberg photos.
Major Collection of Allen Ginsberg Photos Donated to the University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is home to the world’s largest collection of photographs by the late beat poet Allen Ginsberg thanks to a donation by the Larry & Cookie Rossy Family Foundation.
The 7,686 photographs housed in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and 236 silver gelatin prints at the University of Toronto Art Centre include portraits of figures as prominent as John Cage, Bob Dylan, William de Kooning, Paul McCartney and Iggy Pop.
Comprising a nearly complete archive of Ginsberg’s surviving photographs, the collection, spanning the years 1944 to 1997, includes original snapshots and prints of various sizes. The silver gelatin prints are unique in that they are hand-captioned by Ginsberg. All of these images will be available to scholars and some will be on display.
“This is an exciting and remarkable gift,” says U of T President Meric Gertler. “It builds on U of T’s strength as one of the world’s greatest research resources, and our global stature in the humanities. We are very grateful to the Larry & Cookie Rossy Family Foundation for entrusting us with this truly fascinating collection.”
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was an American poet and nonconformist whose influence extended far beyond the United States. Along with his friends Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso, Ginsberg was at the centre of a network of writers and artists dubbed the Beat Generation. In the 1950s and 1960s their work and their personal example would forever alter the cultural scene. The Beats also influenced postmodern and avant-garde Canadian poetry.
Although known primarily as a writer, Ginsberg was an avid photographer. The collection includes images of writers Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones), Paul Bowles, Doris Lessing, Josef Skvorecky (who was a professor of English at U of T) and Evgeny Yevtushenko. Other Ginsberg subjects were photographer Robert Frank, psychologist R.D. Laing, author and activist Dr. Benjamin Spock and psychologist and drug guru Timothy Leary. Ginsberg’s friend and fellow writer Burroughs appears in more than 300 photographs. Another frequent subject is Ginsberg’s lifelong partner, Peter Orlovsky.
The Ginsberg prints provide visual insight into New York’s urban landscape from the 1950s to the 1990s. They also document Ginsberg’s international travels to Canada, France, India, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, the USSR and many other nations.
“This fabulous collection provides both scholars and students unique entrée to Ginsberg’s passionate eye and helps to confirm his status as a major 20th-century American poet with the camera,” adds Louis Kaplan, Professor of History and Theory of Photography and New Media, Graduate Department of Art. “One cannot overestimate its photo-historical, pedagogical and cultural value.”
Many of the prints have been digitized and are available via the Fisher Library’s Flickr site and the UTAC Collections Online portal which can be accessed from the University of Toronto Art Centre’s homepage.This fall UTAC, in collaboration with the Fisher Library, will present an exhibition of the Ginsberg photographs.