Skip to Main Content

History of Photography

Guide to resources on the history, theory, and practice of photography.

Special Collections

Did you know that UMBC's Special Collections include over two million photographs? Our holdings document the history and evolution of photography from its beginnings in 1839 to the present day and include a range of formats, processes, techniques, and genres. Our collection's strengths include: documentary photography, such as Lewis Hine's photographs of child labor and the mining photographs of George Bretz, photographs made during the US Civil War, nineteenth-century travel photography, twentieth-century American modernism, and press photographs from the Baltimore Sun and the Underwood and Underwood collections.   

In the Special Collections Reading Room, you can view works by Ansel Adams, Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbott, Judy Dater, Donna Ferrato, Robert Frank, Roland Freeman, Ralph Gibson, William Henry Jackson, Mary Ellen Mark, Eadweard Muybridge, Minor White, and many others. Our collections are also strong in regional photography, with many historical images of Baltimore and Maryland and images by Maryland-based photographers. Search the Photography Collections online.

In addition to photographs, our holdings of cameras and other photographic equipment reveal advances in technology used in practice of the medium. Our archival holdings provide researchers with rich resources to further study of individual artists and topics, including Edward Bafford, the Baltimore Camera Club, the East Baltimore Documentary Photography Project, the Jule Eisenbud Collection on Ted Serios and Thoughtographic Photography, Robert Fichter, Grancel Fitz, Mildred Grossman, Richard Jaquish, and Jaromir Stephany.  

The Edward L. Bafford Photographic Book Collection includes over 15,000 photography books and serials. 

Visit the Special Collections website for more information and to arrange a visit to our Reading Room. 

Image of a photography by Lewis Hine, inscribed A.M. Mon. May 9, 1910. Newsies at Skeeter's branch They were all smoking.

Lewis Hine, A.M. Mon. May 9, 1910. Newsies at Skeeter's branch They were all smoking. St. Louis, Missouri, 1910. Gelatin silver print. The Photography Collections, UMBC (P1386)

These local museums in Baltimore and Washington DC have historical and art photography collections and frequently host photography exhibitions. 


UMBC students may use their Student ID to check out books from any of the libraries in the UMD system. 

UMBC is also a part of the Baltimore Area Library Consortium (BALC), you may use your UMBC ID to check out books from the following libraries. *HINT* You may have to tell the circulation staff at the participating libraries that you are from a BALC institution.