Manuscript Collection MS COLL 00448 - Sam Tata Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Sam Tata Papers


  • 1938-1992 (Creation)

Level of description

Manuscript Collection

Extent and medium

5 boxes (2.5 metres)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Sam Tata was born in Shanghai, China, on September 30th, 1911, to father Bejan, and mother, Naja, of the wealthy, mercantile Tata family. He died July 3rd, 2005 at the age of 93 at Sooke, British Columbia, Canada, on Vancouver Island. He took up photography after studying at the University of Hong Kong in the 1930s, and was one of the founding members of the Shanghai Camera Club. He learned studio portraiture with Oscar Seepol, later studying with well-known photographers, Chin San Long and Liu Shu Chong. His photographs began to be accepted for publication by British and American magazines. In the 1940s he had his own photography exhibition in Bombay (Mumbai). He lived in India for part of the 1940s where he met future mentor and friend, famed French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. With Cartier-Bresson, Tata learned the art of street photography. The two documented the Indian Independence movement from 1946-1948, including the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1949, Tata returned to Shanghai, where he documented the rise of Communism in China following the Chinese Civil War. Tata immigrated to Canada in 1956 with his wife, Marketa (Rita) Langer and settled in Montreal, developing his photography career as a portraitist, and raising his daughter, Toni. Photographs of Toni as a small child appeared frequently in Canadian magazines-- she was clearly one of her father's favourite subjects. Tata also became known for his portraits of celebrities such as Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, Buster Keaton, Elizabeth Smart, Christopher Plummer, Donald Sutherland to name a few. Tata is survived by daughter Antonia (Toni), in Canada, sister Aloo Daver, of Hong Kong, brothers Phiroze Tata of London, England, Jangoo Tata, of San Francisco, and two grandsons. One brother died before him. Tata's work has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Macleans, The Illustrated Weekly of India, Time, The Globe Magazine, Star Weekly, Perspectives, French Chateleine and many others, especially during the 1940s-1960s. His work has also appeared in numerous books and photography shows. In 1982 he received an honorary degree from Concordia University, Montreal. He was awarded the lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communication(CAPIC). In 1991, forty of his photographs appeared in the National Library of Canada exhibition, Canadian Writers at the National Library of Canada.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Acquired from John Metcalf, 2006.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection includes large black and white photographs and several scrapbooks related to the life and work of Sam Tata.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Material may be requested in person at the Fisher Library Reference Desk, or in advance using our online stack retrieval request form:

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

Rules and/or conventions used




Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related places