Silvia Saunders was a part of the Hamilton College community for more than sixty years. The daughter of Percy Saunders, professor of chemistry, she is remembered by many for operating her father's Hybrid Peony Nursery, and her scholarship on architect Isaac Williams. Fewer know her work as a professional photographer.
Silvia began taking photographs after returning to Clinton during the Depression. In a short period of time, she had published a series of photographs in Hound and Horn magazine. Later, she traveled across the United States and Europe photographing houses and gardens for magazines such as House and Garden, and her work appeared twice in the U.S. Camera Annual. In 1951, Silvia returned to Clinton where she dedicated the rest of her life to managing her father's peony business.
Today, Silvia's photographs can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Emerson Gallery holds more than one hundred of her photographs that were donated to the college by Mrs. Edward (Grace) Root and Silvia Saunders. The collection includes botanical studies that are reminiscent of the work of Karl Blossfeldt, documentary photographs, and a series of architectural photographs including those that appeared in Hound and Horn.