Collection 1880s–1940s


Early Photography and Film

Fall 2019–Fall 2021


Clementina, Lady Hawarden. Grace Maude and Clementina Maude. c. 1863. Albumen silver print, 9 1/8 x 8 15/16" (23.2 x 22.8 cm). Photo: John Wronn
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 502 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

When photography and film first appeared in the 19th century, they fascinated viewers with their ability not only to record but also to reinvent reality. These technologies reshaped the visual culture of the time, providing an alternative to traditional methods of image-making involving hand, pen, and brush.

Cameras served a variety of functions: they were used as documentary tools, instruments of science, and aids to artists and artisans working in other media. And they allowed photographers to create remarkable works of art. Photographs and films captured the highs and lows of life with deadpan mechanical precision. Upending earlier modes of information distribution, they exposed social concerns and facilitated the development of new narrative forms. By reproducing movement in unprecedented ways, and by making the familiar unfamiliar and the invisible visible, these lens-based techniques contributed to shifting conceptions of time and space in the modern era.

Organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, Clément Chéroux, Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, and Sarah Meister, Curator, Department of Photography, with Dana Ostrander and Phil Taylor, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Photography.

87 works online


Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


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MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

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This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].