Numbering more than 1500 images, the Museum's photography collections represent a veritable textbook of 19th-and-20th-century works spanning the entire history of the medium. From early processes to large contemporary works, the collection demonstrates the range of photographic media from documentary to conceptual. Rotating exhibitions are curated to provide installations that introduce aspects of the history of photography, such as anonymous daguerreotypes, delicate albumen prints, antiquated glass lanternslides, glorious silver prints by important 20th-century photographers and contemporary color-saturated prints.
The Museum's photography collections break down into six basic categories:
GENERAL HISTORY with works by William Henry Fox Talbot; Platt Babbitt; and Freres Bisson. This category also includes: daguerreotypes, albumen print portfolios an historical works key to setting a framework for the century to come;
SOCIAL AND DOCUMENTARY images by New Deal FSA and WPA photographers Marion Post Wolcott and Dorothea Lange; child labor and immigrant worker images by Lewis Hine; Berenice Abbott's New York; Bill Brandt's London; and the Paris of Brassaï and Robert Doisneau;
MODERNISTS BETWEEN THE WARS such as Man Ray, Paul Strand, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and experimental Edward Steichen;
CONTEMPORARY PLURALIST DIRECTIONS with works by Robert Frank, Helmut Newton, Lee Friedlander, Mary Ellen Mark, Garry Winogrand, William Christenberry, Jerry Uelsmann, Patrick Nagatani and Gregory Crewdson.
The collection became truly international in scope between 1987 and 1992 with focused Museum acquisitions and purchases of more than 200 photographs to infill areas within the historical narrative. Works by key photographers such as André Kertész, long acknowledged as the father of modern photography, were acquired at this time. Additionally, the collection encompasses representative examples by significant photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Arnold Newman, Andreas Feininger, Walker Evans, John Waters, Graciela Iturbide, Gordon Parks, Robert Frank, Ralph Gibson, Les Krims, and Robert Fichter.
Amplifying the Museum's photography holdings, and of particular interest to numerous visitor constituencies, is the Prigozy Collection from the International Center of Photography, New York. This collection is comprised of more than 250 cameras and photographic equipment which span the history of the camera from the nineteenth-century to present day. The Prigozy Collection holds many rare and precious objects such as Japanese and German sub-miniatures, British plate cameras, Kodak and Kinak art deco-designed cameras, and the earliest 35 mm Leica cameras, in addition to the first movie cameras and equipment, like the 16 mm, Keystone Model B.
Eugene Atget (French, 1857 -1927), Rue de Petit Pont: V Quartier de las Sorbonne, circa 1898, vintage albumen print, 8 3/4 x 7 inches. Permanent Collection 2007.5.51. Bequest of Isadore and Kelly Friedman