University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Northern Lights

NOW Magazine donates photo archives to U of T

Thousands of photographs of Canadian rock stars, politicians, actors, community leaders and artists taken during the 1980s are now part of U of T’s Media Commons, thanks to a gift from NOW, Toronto’s alternative weekly magazine.

Among the photos are portraits of writers Margaret Laurence and Margaret Atwood (BA 1963), former Ontario premier Bob Rae (BA 1969, LLB 1977), artist Norval Morriseau and actor Mike Myers. Many are “outtakes” that never made it into print. Although most of the shots are black and white, some are hand-coloured by the photographers. “This gift is really important because NOW documents portions of society that are not always covered by the mainstream newspapers,” says Brock Silversides, head of Media Commons and the university’s film archivist.

A portion of the gift was displayed at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library last fall. “Through decades of publishing the essential chronicle of the life of our city, NOW has amassed an archive that is a treasure chest for future historians and students of Toronto’s culture and evolution,” says Alice Klein (BA 1975 Woodsworth), who co-founded NOW in 1981 with Michael Hollett. “By donating to U of T, we were able to assure that the material is safely cared for and will be accessible to those who need it.”

The photos are among the first to be stored in U of T’s new film vault at Woodsworth College, one of the few facilities in Ontario designed specifically to preserve photographs and film.

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  1. 2 Responses to “ Northern Lights ”

  2. Paul Till says:

    Hmm, no mention here of how NOW acquired these prints. They bought one-time rights to print the images in the paper. I notice there is no mention of the photographers who made these prints.

  3. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    According to U of T Libraries, NOW originally paid the photographers for a print of each photograph and for one-time use of each image in the magazine.

    NOW then donated the physical prints of the photographs to U of T, but the magazine did not (and could not) donate the rights to those images. As none of the images are old enough to have entered the public domain, those rights still belong to the photographers.

    Thus U of T can make the prints (like all of its archival holdings) available to researchers, but if someone wants a copy of an image or wants to publish one, they have to get permission from the photographer.