463 photographs : b&w and col. (286 negatives) ; 18 x 12 cm
Sylvia Schwartz (1914-1998) was born in 1914 in Toronto. Her parents were Joseph and Gertrude, who were respectively born in the United States and Austria. Sylvia had three older sisters: Fannie Helen and Rosetta (Ruth). Her family moved to Toronto around 1903. Joseph was a furrier who eventually set up his own business, J. Schwartz & Co. Ltd., a fur manufacturing company on Madison Avenue. He later became a partner in the Park Plaza Hotel on Avenue Road.
Sylvia became a prominent portrait photographer in Toronto and owned a studio on Grenville Road. She began her career during the 1940s, capturing images of families, servicemen during the war. and brides. She eventually carved out a niche for herself mid-career, specializing in child portraiture.
In addition to her professional activities, she was also recognized for her commitment to Communism. She befriended many famous American artists who were supporters of the cause, such as Paul Robeson, Duke Ellington, Lena Horne and Cab Caloway, travelling across the border frequently to attend meetings and work with her American comrades. She was also involved in Communist-related organizations and trips that she documented in her photographs.
In 1976 she set up a special children's book award to honour her late sister Ruth, who was a respected Toronto bookseller. In 2004, six years after Sylvia's death, her family changed the name of the award to the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards. The awards are administered by the Ontario Arts Council which selects the school and juries. The Ontario Arts Foundation, the Schwartz Foundation, and the Canadian Booksellers Association, in turn, are responsible for producing the shortlist of books for the jury.
The negatives and proofs were donated by Sylvia's nephew, Herb Solway in two accessions: 2008-1/1 and 2008-4/5.
Scope and Content
The records are in the form of proofs and negatives that were taken by photographer Sylvia Schwartz during her career. They include images of her family, their cottage, her friends, events that she participated in as well as portraits of children, servicemen and women, famous entertainers that she was acquainted with, and prominent individuals from the Jewish community.
The records are arranged into series which include portraits of prominent Toronto Jews, military portraits, child portraits, simchas/milestones, entertainers, family and friends, and events. Each series consists of both negatives and corresponding proofs. The proofs have been retained for reference purposes as well as to document the decision-making of the photographer.