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!

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

Édouard Baldus, <em>Cloister of St. Trophîme, Arles</em>
Édouard Baldus, Cloister of St. Trophîme, Arles

Baldus’s Cloister of St. Trophîme, Arles aspired to use photography to make an imagined reality visible, tangible, and therefore achievable.

Muybridge, <em>The Attitudes of Animals in Motion</em><br>Getty Conversations
Muybridge, The Attitudes of Animals in Motion
Getty Conversations

Have you ever wondered what it took to take a photograph in the 1800s?

Stan Douglas, <em>Every Building on 100 West Hastings</em>
Stan Douglas, Every Building on 100 West Hastings

How do we picture a shifting urban landscape constantly on the verge of disappearing?

Martha Rosler, <em>The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems</em>
Martha Rosler, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems

“A poetics of drunkenness” is how the artist Martha Rosler once described her 24-panel photo-text installation, The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems.

Francis Galton, eugenics, and photography
Francis Galton, eugenics, and photography

Galton, who founded the Eugenics movement made composite portraits to validate his stereotypes.

Harold Edgerton, <i>Milk-Drop Coronet Splash</i>
Harold Edgerton, Milk-Drop Coronet Splash

A drop of milk landing into a bowl makes an elegant crown shape, thanks to Edgerton’s stroboscope.

William Notman, <em>Ice Shove, Commissioner Street, Montreal</em>
William Notman, Ice Shove, Commissioner Street, Montreal

Notman's photograph of protruding ice provided a way for people to imagine the failure or success of a Canadian city’s ability to cope with the forces of nature.

Lola Álvarez Bravo, <em>Architectural Anarchy in Mexico City</em>
Lola Álvarez Bravo, Architectural Anarchy in Mexico City

Architectural Anarchy in Mexico City not only conveys a critique towards the rapid growth of modernist architecture characteristic of changing time in Mexico, but it also challenges Mexican muralism.

Selected Contributors

Select contributors