Sylvia de Swaan

Art & Documentary Photographer
The Knoxboro - Utica - Years
Location: Utica, New York
Nationality: Romanian Born/Now Ukraine
Biography: I’m a Romanian born art and documentary photographer who works on several long-term projects concurrently, often informed or influenced by world events. Thus my longest running work, "Return," currently titled, "Narratives:... read on
Public Story
The Knoxboro - Utica - Years

In 1976 I moved with my son and second husband to Upstate New York, a rambling old house in a hamlet named Knoxboro. We heated with wood and coal, had chickens, a big garden, my son went to the local school and my husband and I took photos of the neighbors and small town life which was so different from the city life and ambience I came from. Before that I’d lived in New Orleans, Mexico City, New York City, and multiple other stops in my life’s trajectory, leading back to my birthplace in Romania.

Soon after our arrival I wrote in my journal, ….”I sit here before my worktable, the same one I had in New Orleans, similar to one I had Mexico City. Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine that I’m at a different place than the one where I’ve always been…other times I wonder if I’m still the same person calling myself I. As in every other place where I’ve lived, there are moments when I ask myself what am I doing here? Always feeling at least a partial pull to someplace else…other cities other people. But strangely Central New York has become home and I’ve by now lived here longer than anywhere else.”

Eventually my husband and I separated, my son went off to school and I moved to Utica to be near my job as Executive Director of Sculpture Space, an international residency program for professional artists. From photographing rural life I turned to post industrial urban scenes and the many rituals, festivals, demonstrations that punctuate each year.

In recent years we’ve seen an influx of immigrants from all the world’s war zones and Utica has become known as the “city that loves refugees,” a more interesting multi-cultural place.


By Sylvia de Swaan —


Black Lives Matter

By Sylvia de Swaan / Utica, NY

Return:The Landscape of Memory

By Sylvia de Swaan / Eastern Europe/Ukraine/Czernowitz/Chernivtsi — “Return/The Landscape of Memory” is about travel, individual and collective memory and identity; return to..

The Snows of Yesteryear

By Sylvia de Swaan / Utica, NY and environs — I borrowed the title for this series, from "The Snows of Yesteryear," the book by Gregor von..

November in Vail, Colorado 2016 ©Sylvia DeSwaan

By Sylvia de Swaan — Each year, my son & son-in-law invite me to spend Thanksgiving with them in thier gorgeous house in..

The Mexico Years

By Sylvia de Swaan / Mexico — I lived in Mexico at a formative stage of my life (1962-73) – as a young painter in quest of adventure, a..

Where Will You Spend Eternity

By Sylvia de Swaan / Utica, New York and environs — “Where Will You Spend Eternity,” about how small cities and towns struggle to adapt to our fast changing..

El Perro y La Sombra, Ozuluama, Veracruz 2010 ©Sylvia de Swaan

By Sylvia de Swaan


By Sylvia de Swaan — “The Ticking Clock” “The Ticking Clock ,” is my most recent diptych in a series entitled “Sub-version,”..
Join us
for more access