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H he Photography Collection grew out of an initiative by founding curator Julia Van Haaften to identify and preserve the Library’s dispersed holdings of original photographic materials. Beginning in 1975 Van Haaften, then a librarian in the Art Division, laid the groundwork for the Photography Documentation Project, which launched in 1979 with the support of David H. Stam, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of The Research Libraries at the time. Start-up funding was provided by Bradford Warner, representing the Howard Gilman Foundation, and two longstanding, generous Library supporters, Sandra Payson and Library Trustee Mrs. John D. Gordan. Initial funding for additional staff was provided through grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts in 1980, when photography was organized as an independent research unit within an expanded division of art, prints, and photographs. For the next two years, the staff of the “Photo Project” worked toward recataloging and relocating a portion of the estimated 4,000,000 photographs found throughout The New York Public Library. The Photography Collection became a fully operational curatorial division in April 1982.

The Photography Collection today comprises approximately 500,000 photographs by 6,000 photographers. The collection encompasses the broadest range of the medium, including images made for commercial, industrial, and scientific application as well as images for the press and other print media, the vernacular of amateur snapshot photography, and original works intended for exhibition and/or the art market. The collection includes examples of almost every photographic process, from the daguerreotype to digital imagery, and is especially strong in photographically illustrated books, travel and topographical photography, stereoscopic views, and portraiture. Other strengths include works from the first years of photography, American photography from the 1930s and '40s, limited edition portfolios, and works by New York-based photographers working in the 1970s and '80s. Books and periodicals on general photography have been acquired comprehensively throughout the Library’s history. The department’s reference collection includes more than 20,000 volumes on photographers and the history of photography, exhibition catalogs, annuals, biographical dictionaries, and resource guides. These volumes are accessible primarily through the
Art & Architecture Collection. Since January 2002, reference service for the photographs themselves has been provided in the renovated Prints and Photographs Study Room, funded by Miriam and Ira D. Wallach, who also provide general support for the Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs. Additional support for the Photography Collection comes from the Carl Jacobs Foundation and from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert B. Menschel. Since 2005, Stephen C. Pinson has served as The Robert B. Menschel Curator of Photography of The New York Public Library; beginning in 2008, he also has served as Assistant Director and The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Librarian for Art, Prints and Photographs.
László Moholy-Nagy

László Moholy-Nagy. Malerei, Photographie, Film. München: Langen, 1925. NYPL, Wallach Division, Photography Collection.
Digital ID 1565020.
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