Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A history of photography

These are images of just some of the photographs drawn from the V&A’s collection to illustrate a history of photography. The Museum began acquiring photographs in 1852, and its collection is now one of the largest and most important in the world. International in scope, it ranges from the beginnings of photography to the present. Most of the photographs not currently on display are available through the Prints & Drawings Study Room.

Click on the images below to view larger versions.

History of the photography collection

The history of the photography collection in the V&A is closely connected with the development of the Museum as a whole. Its first director, Henry Cole, was an amateur photographer himself and a great supporter of the art of photography. He began a photography collection in 1856, the year that the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A, was established. Since then, the collection has grown to be international in scope and comprises over 300,000 images dating from 1839 to the present.

Focusing on four historic photographs from the V&A collection, the importance of the sense of touch in photography is demonstrated. Photography can be seen as a combination of science and art, in which advances in technique continually feed creativity and artistic achievement. This is borne out by the changes in photographic materials, particularly the paper. Over the years, a variety of paper types and light sensitive coatings have been manufactured, so paper quality and texture can often help to date a photograph.



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