Photography Centre

Photography is embedded in the history of the V&A. The museum has collected and exhibited photography since the 1850s, and today the collection is one of the most significant in the world.

The expanded Photography Centre at V&A South Kensington is the largest space in the UK dedicated to a permanent photography collection, hosting a world-leading programme of displays, events and opportunities for research. It celebrates the V&A's vast photography collection, comprising about 800,000 photographs that span the 1820s to today.

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Across seven galleries, the Photography Centre showcases objects from the beginnings of photography to the present day. From pioneering historical techniques to dynamic contemporary practices, the Centre is a place to discover photography’s many histories and explore its extensive impact on our lives.

View the location of the Photography Centre on our digital map.

Room 95, Inside the Camera

Inside the Camera is an interactive gallery exploring how cameras work and how they are used. A timeline traces their evolution from the Victorian view camera to the first iPhone, and a walk-in camera obscura demonstrates the optical phenomenon that forms the basis of how all cameras work.

Room 95 – Inside the Camera
Room 95 – Inside the Camera. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Rooms 96 & 97, The Parasol Foundation Gallery – Photography Now

Photography Now showcases contemporary photography from around the world, featuring new acquisitions and site-specific commissions. The displays highlight the breadth of contemporary practice through diverse approaches that explore some of today’s most pressing issues.

Room 97, The Parasol Foundation Gallery – Photography Now
Room 97, The Parasol Foundation Gallery – Photography Now. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Room 98, The Kusuma Gallery – Photography and the Book

Photography and the Book explores how books have been fundamental to photography since the 1840s. The Room visibly houses the extensive Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Library, which contains over 20,000 journals, books, pamphlets and manuals. It also features changing displays of photographic books, periodicals and archival material, alongside a selection of contemporary photobooks available to browse on open shelves.

Books from the RPS Library are available by request via the V&A National Art Library

Room 98, The Kusuma Gallery – Photography and the Book
Room 98, The Kusuma Gallery – Photography and the Book. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Room 99, The Meta Media Gallery – Digital Gallery

The Digital Gallery is dedicated to exploring photography in its most expanded digital forms. Through an ambitious programme, it seeks to challenge definitions of what photography is and generate questions around photography and technology today.

Room 99, The Meta Media Gallery – Digital Gallery
Room 99, The Meta Media Gallery – Digital Gallery. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Room 100, The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery & Room 101, The Sir Elton John and David Furnish Gallery – Photography 1840s – Now

Photography 1840s – Now presents thematic historiesof photography through the lens of the V&A collection, and features objects ranging from photographic prints and negatives to books, ephemera and technical equipment. These Galleries reveal the V&A's long relationship with photography and the exceptional breadth and depth of its collection.

Room 101, The Sir Elton John and David Furnish Gallery – Photography 1840s – Now
Room 101, The Sir Elton John and David Furnish Gallery – Photography 1840s – Now. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


The V&A was the first museum to collect photographs, beginning in the 1850s. In 2017, the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) Collection was transferred to the V&A, considerably expanding an already vast collection. Today, the collection is international in scope and comprises over a million objects related to the history of photography, including photographs, negatives, cameras, technical equipment, books, periodicals, and archival material. The V&A maintains an active programme of photography acquisitions, generously supported by the Photographs Acquisition Group alongside artists and other donors.

Four fish lying on leaves
'Four Trout', autochrome, by Baron Adolph de Meyer, 1909, England. Museum no. RPS.559-2020. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Research & Programming

The Photography Centre is a rich resource for research. Individual researchers interested in photography can visit the Prints & Drawings Study Room or make an online enquiry to contact our curators. Collections research is complemented by the work of the V&A Conservation department, which preserves, conserves, investigates, and facilitates the display of V&A objects. Together, we help to safeguard and build knowledge about our collections for future generations.

The V&A Research Institute (VARI) is a leader in its field and supports post-graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral research related to the museum’s collections. Through the generosity of philanthropic donations and grant funding, photography research at the V&A is thriving. The Curatorial Fellowship in Photography, supported by The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation, facilitates in-depth research into under-recognised aspects of the photography collection.

The Parasol Foundation Women in Photography Project, supported by The Parasol Foundation Trust, is a curatorial programme dedicated to supporting women artists through wide-ranging activities including acquisitions, research, education, displays and public events. You can follow the latest updates from the Parasol project on Instagram: @vamparasolwomenphoto.

The V&A is also committed to supporting artists through commissions made possible by the Manitou Foundation.

Beyond the Photography Centre, photography features in exhibitions and displays throughout the museum, and touring V&A exhibitions share the photography collection through partner institutions in the UK and overseas. The V&A’s learning programme offers a variety of opportunities to engage with photography, from free family activities to adult courses, workshops and study days offered by V&A Academy.

If you are interested in supporting photography at the V&A, please get in touch by emailing:

Still life showing a partially full decanter and a fruitbowl
Decanter and fruit, albumen print, by Roger Fenton, 1853 – 60, London, England. Museum no. RPS.2445-2018. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


The photography collection can be accessed online through Explore the Collections and in person through the Prints & Drawings Study Room.

Collection Selection Boxes curated by the Photography Section provide visitors and learning groups with an introduction to topics such as the History of Photography and Fashion Photography, with new boxes added regularly.

Photographic books are held by the National Art Library (NAL) and are discoverable through the NAL catalogue.

A dedicated Teacher's Resource is available for Key Stages 4 and 5, Art and Design, to help students learn about the work of photographers on display in the Photography Centre. Featuring a 'compare and contrast' section and an easy to print student booklet, the Teacher's Resource can be used at the museum or in the classroom.

Visit our blog to keep up to date with the latest Photography Centre news and discover more about our collections, displays and research projects. Learn more about these resources via our YouTube channel.

A youth dances in a garden while being watched by a child
Untitled [Young teenage boy who, just arrived from Jamaica, shows off his latest reggae dance with his younger brother watching, Brixton Hill], gelatin silver print, by Neil Kenlock, photographed 1968, printed 2011, London, England. Museum no. E.220-2012. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


To get in touch, email us at:

The Photography Centre is made possible by Sir Elton John and David Furnish, The Kusuma Trust, The Bern Schwartz Family Foundation, Ms. Ruth Monicka Parasol and The Parasol Foundation Trust, Meta Media, Shao Zhong Art Foundation and many other generous supporters.

Header image:
Blast #5707, photograph by Naoya Hatakeyama, 1998. Museum no. E.4-2003. © Naoya Hatakeyama