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A rhino in a zoo enclosure.
Fig. 1

Volker Seding, White Rhinoceros, Chester, England, 1990, chromogenic print © Estate of Volker Seding, courtesy of Stephen Bulger Gallery. Ryerson Image Centre, Gift of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, 2018

The RIC acquires nearly 500 photographic masterpieces from Howard and Carole Tanenbaum’s private collection 

Dec. 2, 2019

The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) is pleased to announce a major gift of 427 photographs from Toronto collectors Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, including works by influential Canadian and international photographers such as Lynne Cohen, Rafael Goldchain, André Kertész, Danny Lyon, Lida Moser, William Notman, and Volker Seding. The works join the RIC’s existing Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Photography Collection.

The donation features studio portraits, landscapes, expressive compositions, and documentary photographs highlighting social issues such as immigration, community structures, and civil rights. The works date from 1860 to 2011 and include a wide range of photographic formats, from early albumen prints to contemporary chromogenic colour prints.  

The Tanenbaums began collecting photographs in the 1970s and were among the medium’s earliest advocates in Canada (the National Gallery of Canada started collecting photographs in 1967). Over five decades, they have assembled one of Canada’s greatest private holdings of photography. 

“We wanted to bring important pieces of photography to Canada and share these photographs extensively,” says Howard Tanenbaum. “The RIC is the perfect venue to make this happen.”

The gifted images were hand-selected by the Ryerson Image Centre curators for their relevance to the study of the history of photography, and Canadian photography more specifically. Notably, the acquisition includes over 300 works by Canadian photographers from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

“We’re immensely grateful for Howard and Carole’s generosity and support of the RIC over the years,” says RIC Director Paul Roth. “I am delighted that we can share these extraordinary photographs with scholars, curators, artists, and students of Canadian visual culture and history.” 

Highlights include nearly 60 photographs by William Notman—a seminal figure in early Canadian studio photography who depicted people, urban scenes and landscapes across the country—that join 130 Notman images already in the RIC’s collection. Over 120 images by Toronto-based photographer Rafael Goldchain, including works from each of his major series, such as Nostalgia for an Unknown Land, are a part of the gift. Other outstanding works include American photographer Danny Lyon’s celebrated 1960s series on the US Civil Rights Movement and the Texas prison system and World War I-era images by Hungarian-American experimentalist André Kertész

“We’ve been very interested in collecting multiple works by certain photographers,” says Carole Tanenbaum. “For us, these photographs are a good way to understand what the photographers are trying to say in either a single project or over their whole career.” With this acquisition, the RIC now boasts the country’s preeminent holdings of works by several important artists. 

Earlier this year, the RIC presented the exhibition True to the Eyes: The Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Photography Collection, which highlighted more than 200 photographs owned by the couple and focused on their humanistic approach to collecting. A number of photographs shown in the exhibition will now join the RIC’s permanent collection. 

The Tanenbaums were integral in Ryerson University’s 2005 acquisition of the Black Star Collection, a major holding of nearly 300,000 twentieth-century press photographs, which led to the creation of the RIC in 2012. Howard Tanenbaum is a member and Founding Chair of the RIC Advisory Board. The RIC’s reception area was named the Howard Tanenbaum Welcome Centre in recognition of his long-standing support.

In 2014, the Tanenbaums made a generous gift to the RIC to ensure the continuation of the Kodak Lecture Series, an acclaimed and long-standing photography and image arts event program that brought seminal photographers, filmmakers, media artists, curators and photo historians to the Ryerson University campus. It was renamed the Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Lecture Series. 

Established in 1969, the RIC’s collection is comprised of nearly 375,000 objects, with a special focus on photojournalism and documentary photography. Research and teaching are at the heart of the RIC’s mandate and the works in the Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Photography Collection will be available to view by appointment at the RIC’s Peter Higdon Research Centre. Academic and curatorial inquiries can be sent to riccollections@ryerson.ca.