Photographs

Room 100

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The V&A began acquiring photographs in 1852, and its collection is now one of the largest and most important in the world.

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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. Photography can be seen as a combination of science and art, in which advances in technique continually feed creativity and artistic achievement.

Exploring Photographs

Photo of Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, 2 June 1953. Museum no. PH.311-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, 2 June 1953. Museum no. PH.311-1987. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Ilse Bing (Rockefeller Center or Daily Mirror and Chrysler Building tops), 1936. Museum no. E.3029-2004. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Estate of Ilse Bing, courtesy Michael Mattis
Ilse Bing (Rockefeller Center or Daily Mirror and Chrysler Building tops), 1936. Museum no. E.3029-2004. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Estate of Ilse Bing, courtesy Michael Mattis

Photo of 'African Homeboy - Brixton, London, 1987', Normski. Museum no. E.110-2012. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. © Normski/ Victoria and Albert Museum, London
'African Homeboy - Brixton, London, 1987', Normski. Museum no. E.110-2012. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. © Normski/ Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Christine Keeler, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), 1963. Museum no. E.2-2002. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Lewis Morley
Christine Keeler, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), 1963. Museum no. E.2-2002. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Lewis Morley

Photo of 'Poppy', Anna Atkins, about 1852. Museum no. PH.381-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
'Poppy', Anna Atkins, about 1852. Museum no. PH.381-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of ‘Birth of Milk Drop 1’, Harold Edgerton, about 1935. Museum nos. E.551 to 556-1997. © Harold & Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press Inc./ Victoria and Albert Museum, London
‘Birth of Milk Drop 1’, Harold Edgerton, about 1935. Museum nos. E.551 to 556-1997. © Harold & Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press Inc./ Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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