The Photography Collection
The photography collection includes more than 400,000 photographs and negatives dating from the invention of photography to the present day. The collection embraces numerous landmark processes, objects of great rarity, and monuments of art history that trace the evolution of the medium as a technology, as a means of scientific and historical documentation, and as one of the most potent and accessible means of personal expression of the modern era. More than 14,000 photographers are represented in the collection, including virtually all the major figures in the history of the medium. The collection includes original vintage works produced by nearly every process and printing medium employed.
- A major collection of Ansel Adams’ early and vintage prints
- A major collection of nineteenth-century photographs of the American West
- A major collection of early French photography
- One of the largest collections of daguerreotypes in the world
- For all levels of researchers, one of the most accessible of important photographic collections
The collection of 3,500 daguerreotypes, examples of the first successful photographic process, is especially important. Perhaps the most extensive collection of French plates outside France, the collection includes a daguerreotype made by the inventor of the process, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, along with works by the best French practitioners of the process. American daguerreotypes are equally well represented by a variety of superb plates, including a collection of important, extremely early Philadelphia plates; whole plate views by Samuel Bemis, one of the first American amateur photographers; and a major collection (more than 1,200) of the work of Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah John Hawes, the Boston daguerreotypists considered by most experts to have been this country’s best.
Nineteenth-century British and French photography on paper
Included are prints by William Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the calotype process; the largest collection of D.O. Hill and Robert Adamson calotype portraits in North America; a rare presentation album of portrait studies by Julia Margaret Cameron; selections of works by the French masters, including Gustave Le Gray and Henri Le Secq; and an extensive collection of European topographical photography.
American 19th-century holdings
Included are two of the major photographic documents of the American Civil War, Alexander Gardner’s Photographic Sketchbook of the War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, as well as examples of Western expeditionary and landscape photographs by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and others.
Important late 19th- and early 20-century work
Frederick Evans, known for his extraordinary platinum prints of English architecture, is represented by almost 300 images, and there are almost 500 vintage prints by Eugène Atget, the unassuming French commercial photographer who has become a seminal figure of modern photography. The collection of Alvin Langdon Coburn, a preeminent figure of the Pictorialist Movement, was bequeathed to the Museum by the photographer. It contains over 1,000 prints and nearly 18,000 negatives, and is rivaled only by the collection of his work at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, England. The Museum’s collection of almost 10,000 Lewis Hine prints and negatives is definitive.
The work of Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen
George Eastman House became an important repository of Alfred Stieglitz’s work, which was distributed among a number of museums after his death by his widow Georgia O’Keeffe. It is also the major repository of the work of Edward Steichen, holding the world’s largest collection of Steichen materials. Stieglitz was the dominant voice in American photography from the late 1890s until his death in 1946. Steichen, a protege of Stieglitz, was one of the most influential arbiters of photography as an art form well into the 1950s. Stieglitz and Steichen’s later contemporaries — Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston — are also well represented.
This is represented by the work of Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Frantisek Drtikol, André Kertesz, August Sander, and an important collection of work by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.
Post-World War II and contemporary photography
Virtually every major photographic artist who has emerged in the United States within the past 50 years is represented, along with many important non-American photographers. This aspect of the collection in particular continues to grow, although the changing realities of the photographic marketplace dictate a greater selectivity in the acquisition of works than ever before.
Documents of the popular impact of the photograph on modern culture
Included are thousands of conventional nineteenth-century studio portraits in a variety of formats; stereocards; lantern slides; travel albums; amateur snapshot albums; and press photographs. There is also an extensive selection of American combat photography from World War II, primarily the work of Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard photographers, along with Air Force aerial reconnaissance images taken over Europe during and immediately after the war.
The Gannett Foundation Photographic Study Center, located in the archive building, is open by appointment Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. For appointments, please call (585) 271-3361 ext. 481, Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Appointments must be made a minimum of two weeks in advance.