A history of photography

Where would we be without our cameras?

c. 1827–now

Beginner's guide

"To collect photographs is to collect the world."
—Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)

videos + essays

We're adding new content all the time!

Alphonse Bertillon, <em>Mugshot and Record of Francis Galton</em>
Alphonse Bertillon, Mugshot and Record of Francis Galton

Profile and frontal portrait photographs were used by police stations in France, Great Britain, Germany, and the United States in the late nineteenth century to help police and victims try to identify repeat offenders—but also point to implicit biases in policing.

Santu Mofokeng, <em>Train Churches</em>
Santu Mofokeng, Train Churches

Santu Mofokeng's Train Churches shows people preaching, praying, healing, dancing, and making music while commuting on train cars in South Africa.

Malick Sidibé, <em>Nuit de Noël (Happy Couple)</em>
Malick Sidibé, Nuit de Noël (Happy Couple)

Fun and festive, Nuit de Noël (Happy Couple) is exemplary of Malick Sidibé’s best known body of work: photographs of young people at social gatherings and events during the 1960s and 1970s.

László Moholy-Nagy, <i>Photogram</i>
László Moholy-Nagy, Photogram

László Moholy-Nagy's Photogram forces the viewer to question what a photograph is.

Binh Danh, <em>Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite CA, May 31, 2012</em>
Binh Danh, Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite CA, May 31, 2012

Can we ever really see and experience a site without comparing it to the photographs of that same scene?

Joel Sternfeld, <em>On This Site—The Stonewall Inn</em>
Joel Sternfeld, On This Site—The Stonewall Inn

On This Site reminds us of the many tragedies that have marked American history and yet remain unmarked, on-site and in the present.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, <em>View from the Window at Le Gras</em>
Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, View from the Window at Le Gras

Niépce's heliograph is the earliest surviving camera-made photograph.

John Whipple, William Bond, and George Bond, <em>The Moon</em>, No. 37
John Whipple, William Bond, and George Bond, The Moon, No. 37

Achieving clear daguerreotypes from the unprecedented process of photographing through a telescope was anything but easy.

Bernd and Hilla Becher, <em>Water Towers</em>, 1988
Bernd and Hilla Becher, Water Towers, 1988

The Bechers captured industrial forms with stunning austerity and incredible consistency.

Photograph of Abdülhamid II
Photograph of Abdülhamid II

The Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II understood the power of photographic representation.

Trevor Paglen, <em>The Black Sites—The Salt Pit, Northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan</em>
Trevor Paglen, The Black Sites—The Salt Pit, Northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan

Paglen’s photographs of the CIA’s black sites speak to an enduring quality of photography as a means of visual testimony.

Chris McCaw, <em>Sunburned, GSP #166, Mohave/Winter Solstice</em>
Chris McCaw, Sunburned, GSP #166, Mohave/Winter Solstice

Sunburn GSP #166 (Mohave/Winter Solstice Day) traces the arc of the Sun over four hours as it moved across the sky in the Mojave Desert during the Winter solstice

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