The Metropolitan Museum's Department of Photographs surveys the history of photography from its invention in the 1830s to the present. The collection of more than 20,000 works is largely European and American, with some representation of other parts of the world, particularly Japan. The Metropolitan's department includes several important collections: The Gilman Paper Company Collection, comprising exceptionally rich holdings in early French, British, and American photography, as well as masterpieces from the turn-of-the-century and modernist periods; The Rubel Collection, with superb examples of British photography from the first three decades of the medium's history; The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, with masterpieces of the Photo-Secession movement (1902–17) and related Pictorialist photography; The Ford Motor Company Collection of American and European photography between the World Wars; and the personal archive of the American photographer Walker Evans (1903–1975). All told, the Museum's collection reveals the medium's breadth of form and function—from documentation to refined aestheticism and from intimate explorations of identity to majestic expressions of the sublime.
Nearly every permutation of technique and support is represented: early experimental "photogenic drawings" of the 1830s; daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes (one-of-a-kind images exposed on silver-plated copper, glass, and iron, respectively); salted paper prints from paper negatives; albumen silver prints from glass negatives; gum bichromate prints; platinum and palladium prints; gelatin silver prints (the standard black-and-white photograph of the twentieth century); and a variety of types of color photography