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Description found in Archives

Walter Curtin Fonds [graphic material, textual records, object] 



Place of creation


ca. 122,785 photographs.
49 prints reproductions.
4 medals.
2 cm of textual material.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of five series covering the full spectrum of Walter Curtin's career as a photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Canada and Great Britain and spanning a period of five decades. Fonds include materials related to both commercial assignments and personal projects, the fonds contain a variety of photographic formats, posters, medals, and textual material. The photographic material consists of an extensive negative collection with a selection of corresponding contact sheets and prints for all advertising and documentary assignments and personal projects between 1953 and 1978. Textual material includes both tear sheets with some complete original publications, providing valuable information concerning what photographs were used and how they were used in various publications between 1953 and 1978. Textual material also includes some correspondence between Walter Curtin and various commercial advertising clients and models. The fonds also included awards and honours; objects and textual material received by Walter Curtin in recognition of excellence for work in commercial photography.

Graphic (art)
90: Open
90: Open
Textual records
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
from 06347 to 06351
from 06356 to 06358
INT 022
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
from FDA 0434 to FDA 0436
90: Open
Archival reference no.

Terms of use

Some restrictions on use. Consult media descriptive records.
Copyright: various

FA-397, FA-398 (Paper)

Walter Curtin finding aid folder is located on the s : drive that also contains a detailed box list organized by accession and container number. FA-397, FA-398 (Electronic)

Biography / Administrative history

Walter Anthony Curtin was born in Vienna, Austria on August 16, 1911. His early career focussed on business interests in Vienna, managing a substantial food wholesaling company from the time of his father's death in 1933 until 1938. During his last months in Vienna he studied photo engraving at the Vienna Graphic School and worked briefly as an assistant for a Viennese portrait photographer. In March of 1939, due to the growth of anti-Semitism in Austria, Curtin and his brother Otto moved to London, England which was to be a transitory place while awaiting emigration to the United States.

In London, Curtin continued with his interests in photography, enrolling in the London County School for Photoengraving and Lithography. In 1940 Curtin spend a short time in Australia where he formed a small under supplied yet enthusiastic photography club. Returning to England in 1941, Curtin served in the British Army and his interests in photography remained dormant until 1946. By the end of the war, Curtin was working as an apprentice for Studio Sun, a large printing and engraving firm in London, photographing work of art for books and other publications. The Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain admitted Walter Curtin as an Associate of the Society in 1947. In 1948 he set up his own London studio and began to work as a freelance photographer. In 1949 he married the artist Isabel Kann.

In 1952 Walter Curtin and his wife emigrated to Canada where he successfully launched his career in the direction of photojournalism, drawing inspiration from the "candid" black and white tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson, and friends Dimitri Kessel and Kryn Taconis. He believed that the subject was all important and the value of the photograph depended on the successful transmission of information about the subject to the audience. Based in Toronto, his work through the 1950's attracted potential advertising clients from a variety of North American magazines and advertising agencies. He promoted the authenticity of his photographs, preferring to use "real people" such as members of his family, neighbours or individuals on the street instead of professional models. Walter Curtin was distinguished for his work in magazine advertising photography, receiving several national design awards from the Art Director's Club of Toronto and Montreal.

In 1963 Curtin returned to London, England, where he successfully re-established a studio and continued to work as a commercial and promotional photographer for a variety of international clients. Another economic recession prompted Walter and Isabel to return to Toronto in 1968 where he continued to freelance. In 1972 Curtin commenced a project to extensively document the music and arts scene in Canada. Built through his own initiative and contributions to Music Magazine, this project led to a nation wide exhibition, The Musicians which premiered at the National Arts Centre in November 1985 and the 1994 publication Curtin call : A photographer's candid view of 25 years of music in Canada. Other exhibitions were organized by the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and L'Association Canadienne des Photographes et Illustrateurs en Publicité. Walter Curtin died in October 2007 in Toronto.

Additional information

Citation / reference note
Walter Curtin : A retrospective. - Ottawa : Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, 1985.
Curtin call : A photographers candid view of 25 years of music in Canada. - Toronto : Exile, 1994.

Reproduction note
An innovation project, undertaken in 2008-2009, resulted in the digital copying of every sheet of negatives associated with Walter Curtin assignments, which have been attached to the file-level description of the assignment. DVD copies of these digital files are also located on the Archival Reference file ARCREF 11224 in Art and Photo.


Related control no.

1. 1978-190 NPC
2. 1979-092 NPC
3. 1981-262 NPC
4. 1982-003 MED
5. 1982-070 PIC
6. 1985-202 PIC
7. 1990-204 DAP
8. 118-080044-3
9. 1999-00073-0