Photography has many histories, and the Museum’s collection represents several of these. The MHCAM began collecting photographs in earnest in the 1970s with acquisitions ranging from Francis Frith to Gary Winogrand. Since this time, our curators have sought to reflect the breadth of photographic achievement, though the collection’s strengths lie in mid-century American work.
From early in its development photography was used to record landscapes for reasons ranging from capturing lovely scenes to surveying unfamiliar terrain—all of which are covered at the MHCAM. While the story of personal or expressive image making also starts early (1840s), it gained considerable momentum by the turn-of-the-century (19th-20th) and continues unabated today. Throughout the 20th and into the 21st centuries, photographic use has continued to expand from mundane identity badges to ambitious large-scale creative projects. Today, the Museum holds over 2,000 images representing this wide variety of photographic approaches.The collection boasts significant representations of Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Joel Meyerowitz, and Andy Warhol.