Photographic Brilliance

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is set to expand its vast array of historic and contemporary photography with the transfer of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) collection from the Science Museum Group. An additional 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications and 6,000 pieces of camera-related equipment will boost the V&A’s already substantial acquisitions and reinforces its position as one of the most important photography collections in the world. Through its FuturePlan development project, a new Photography Centre, creating a new public space to celebrate, appreciate and study photography, will be opened in Autumn 2018.

To celebrate the Centre’s launch, a Museum-wide photography festival will take place, alongside the unveiling of a new digital resource for photography enthusiasts. This new and ambitious project will see the V&A double its current photography display area in original 19th-century picture galleries by 2018. The space will be specially designed by David Kohn Architects, and will allow the V&A to display a larger number and range of photographs, negatives, camera technology, books and archival materials than ever before.

The Photography Centre will also facilitate exciting events and activities. Phase two of the project will expand the gallery space further and provide a teaching and research space, a browsing library, and a studio and darkroom to enable photographers’ residencies. New purpose-built storage facilities have been created to house the expanded photography collection, and an extensive project to catalogue and digitise the RPS collection is now underway. This digitisation will provide web access and research resources for all audiences and photography lovers around the world.

Highlights from the RPS collection coming to the V&A include a selection of the world’s earliest photographic images made in the 1820s; a mile-long library of books and journals; cameras and equipment associated with leading photographers; work by British pioneers including Hill & Adamson, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron; major holdings by international artists such as Alfred Stieglitz, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Paul Strand and Ansel Adams; and contemporary photographs by leading British photographers such as Sir Don McCullin, Martin Parr and Mark Power. Precious artefacts such as William Henry Fox Talbot’s first cameras will also be united with his handmade prints and 1844 publication, The Pencil of Nature.

Coinciding with the establishment of the Centre, the V&A and Royal College of Art will launch a new history of photography course as part of the History of Design MA programme in September 2018.

Visit: @V_and_A #vamPhotography

1. Armet Francis (b. 1945) Self-portrait in Mirror 1964, printed 2012 Gelatin silver print © Armet Francis/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.