Created in 1980, the Photography Collection now comprises approximately 500,000 photographs by 6,000 photographers. The images culled from other New York Public Library (NYPL) departments and branches were brought together to form a new division. The Collection encompasses the broadest range of the medium, including images made for scientific, industrial and commercial application. The collection includes examples of almost every photographic process, from topographical and travel photography, the daguerreotype to digital imagery, and is especially strong in stereoscopic views, photographically illustrated books, and portraiture. Other works are of American photographer of the 1930s and 40s, the first years of photography, limited edition portfolios, and the 1970s and 80s works by New York-based photographers. Periodicals and books on general photography have been obtained expansively throughout the history of the Library.
The Photography Collection reference department collection includes in excess of 20,000 volumes on exhibition catalogs, the history of photography and photographers, biographical dictionaries, manuals, and resource guides. Most of these works are searchable in the Library’s online catalog. The volumes are accessible basically through the Art and Architecture Collection. The process of searching the Photography Collection is by using the name of the photographer; but title, photographic process, and time period can also be used. The images also can be searched by subject, place, and genre. Many of the images are available online via the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. The collection has been a center of attraction for many art institutions and individuals who visit here for academic purposes or for pleasure.