U of T Receives Largest Collection of Allen Ginsberg Photos (VIDEO)


The Larry & Cookie Rossy Family Foundation donated 7,686 photographs by the late beat poet Allen Ginsberg to the University of Toronto, U of T. With the latest donation, the University has the world's largest collection of photographs by the American poet.

The 7,686 photographs housed in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library and 236 silver gelatin prints at the University's Art Centre comprises of portraits of well-known personalities such as John Cage, Bob Dylan, William de Kooning, Paul McCartney and Iggy Pop among others.

Meric Gertler, U of T President, thanked the Foundation for trusting the institution with the remarkable collection.

 "This is an exciting and remarkable gift," Gertler said in a statement. "It builds on U of T's strength as one of the world's greatest research resources, and our global stature in the humanities."

Ginsberg (1926-1997) was part of a network of writers and artists, dubbed the Beat Generation, along with his friends Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Beats influenced postmodern and avant-garde Canadian poetry. Although known primarily as a writer, Ginsberg was an avid photographer as well.

The collection, spanning the period 1944 to 1997, also includes images of writers Amiri Baraka, Paul Bowles, Doris Lessing, Josef Skvorecky and Evgeny Yevtushenko; photographer Robert Frank, psychologist R.D. Laing, author and activist Dr. Benjamin Spock and psychologist and drug guru Timothy Leary among others.

The silver gelatin prints are hand-captioned by Ginsberg. The prints reveal visual insights of New York urban landscape from the 1950s to the 1990s. They also detail Ginsberg's international travels to Canada, France, India, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, the USSR and many other nations.

 "This constitutes the ultimate 'insider' group of photographs on the Beats," says Anne Dondertman, associate librarian for Special Collections, University of Toronto Libraries. "It contains important research material for the study of the life, family, work, travels and friendships of Allen Ginsberg from the 1940s to the 1990s."

Louis Kaplan, professor of History and Theory of Photography and New Media, Graduate Department of Art, said that academicians and students can gain access to Ginsberg's passionate eye through the collection. "One cannot overestimate its photo-historical, pedagogical and cultural value."

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