Photography Centre, Rooms 99 – 101

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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 800,000 photographs 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.

Collection Highlights

Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, 2 June 1953. Museum no. PH.311-1987, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ilse Bing (Rockefeller Center or Daily Mirror and Chrysler Building tops) 1936 Vintage gelatin-silver print Museum no. E.3029-2004 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Estate of Ilse Bing, courtesy Michael Mattis
Normski, 'African Homeboy - Brixton, London, 1987'. Museum no. E.110-2012. © Normski/ Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Christine Keeler 1963, Lewis Morley (Australian, born 1925), Gelatin-silver print. Museum no. E.2-2002, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Lewis Morley
Anna Atkins, 'Poppy', about 1852. Museum no. PH.381-1981, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Harold Edgerton, ‘Birth of Milk Drop 1’, about 1935. Museum nos. E.551 to 556-1997, © Harold & Esther Edgerton Foundation, courtesy of Palm Press Inc./ Victoria and Albert Museum, London