Library and Archives Canada acquires Gabor Szilasi’s photographic archives

News release

November 2, 2021—Gatineau, Quebec—Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is proud to announce its acquisition of an important collection of the works of Hungarian-Canadian documentary photographer Gabor Szilasi. This acquisition covers nearly seven decades of Szilasi’s life and career, and contains more than 80,000 negatives and 42 photographic prints, including negatives of early photographs taken in Hungary during the uprising against the Soviet invasion, as well as photographic prints captured in rural Quebec and Montréal. This substantial addition to LAC’s collection will become part of the Gabor Szilasi fonds: a collection of the artist’s works that LAC has been compiling since the 1970s.

Gabor Szilasi is a nationally and internationally renowned documentary photographer, and the recipient of the prestigious Governor General’s Award for lifetime achievement (2010) as well as the Prix Paul-Émile-Borduas (2009), the highest distinction awarded to an individual for outstanding contributions to the visual arts, fine crafts or digital arts in Quebec. He has exhibited widely both across Canada and internationally. His work can be found in the collections of many notable Canadian galleries and museums, including the National Gallery of Canada.

Learn more about Szilasi’s legacy by consulting The Archives of Documentary Photographer Gabor Szilasi. It includes resources such as a podcast, a Flickr album, and a list of all the archives pertaining to Gabor Szilasi in LAC’s Collection Search portal.

About Library and Archives Canada

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations, and to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, thereby contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada. Library and Archives Canada also facilitates cooperation among communities involved in the acquisition, preservation and dissemination of knowledge, and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.

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“Gabor Szilasi’s impressive career, as well as the recognition he enjoys across Canada and around the world, make him an artist of national significance. This acquisition will not only enrich Library and Archives Canada's collection, but will also ensure that the documentary heritage captured by this photographer is preserved for future generations.”

Leslie Weir, Librarian and Archivist of Canada

Quick facts

  • This acquisition came together over a three-year period, 2017 to 2020. Library and Archives Canada made a number of visits to Mr. Szilasi’s home in Montréal to carry out an-depth analysis of the collection, and to negotiate the acquisition with him and his family.

  • Library and Archives Canada has a longstanding relationship with Mr. Szilasi, which dates back to 1975. Three previous acquisitions from Mr. Szilasi were made by our organization, during the 1970s and 1980s. Those acquisitions make up a total of 56 black-and-white photographic prints.

  • Born in Hungary, Mr. Szilasi fled the country with his father in 1957, following the Hungarian Uprising. They settled in Canada in early 1958.

  • Mr. Szilasi took up photography after he was forced to abandon his studies in medicine after being jailed, and later blacklisted, for his attempts to flee the newly installed communist regime in the 1940s. 

  • From 1959 to 1971, Gabor Szilasi was a photographer with the Office du film du Québec. From 1971 to 1995, he taught photography, first at Cégep du Vieux Montréal and later at Concordia University.

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