“The new Photography Centre brings to life some of the V&A’s most beautiful original picture galleries and provides a permanent home for one of the finest and most inspiring collections of photography in the world,” says Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs at the V&A. “The spaces and facilities allow visitors to access, explore and enjoy photography in its many forms.
“The Photography Centre encompasses more than a new gallery space. Beyond its walls lies an associated programme of research, digitisation, learning activities, publications, exhibitions, access to items in stores, and collaborations with other UK and international partners. Photography is one of our most powerful forms of global communication, and I’m thrilled that we can contextualise the past and present of this powerful medium in new and exciting ways.”
It’s an important development for photography in the UK and it opens on Friday – the V&A’s new Photography Centre, which more than doubles the museum’s existing photography space.
“When people think of Victorian photography, they sometimes think of stiff, fusty portraits of women in crinoline dresses, and men in bowler hats,” says Phillip Prodger, head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery. “Victorian Giants is anything but. Here visitors can see the birth of an idea – raw, edgy, experimental – the Victorian avant-garde, not just in photography, but in art writ large. The works of Cameron, Carroll, Hawarden and Rejlander forever changed thinking about photography and its expressive power. These are pictures that inspire and delight. And this is a show that lays bare the unrivalled creative energy, and optimism, that came with the birth of new ways of seeing.”
This fascination with the familiar isn’t a new phenomenon, says Phillip Prodger, head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery and a former judge of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. “We live in a world of the free exchange of imagery and social media and perhaps the photographs that once were considered more private aren’t considered so private anymore. I think people have been making those photographs all along but perhaps not sharing them in that way.”
Designed by David Kohn Architects, the new centre will open in Autumn 2018 and more than double the V&A’s current photography exhibition space. The opening will be accompanied by a museum-wide photography festival, a new digital resource, and a new history of photography course run with the Royal College of Art. The V&A plans to run events and activities in the new centre, and will continue to expand the facility. Phase Two will see the museum add more gallery space, and create a teaching and research facility, a browsing library, and a studio and darkroom which will enable photographers’ residencies. The new centre comes as the V&A transfers the Royal Photographic Society’s collection from the Science Museum Group, which was formerly held in the National Media Museum in Bradford. The transfer adds over 270,000 photographs, 26,000 publications, and 6000 pieces of equipment to the V&A’s holdings – which was already one of the largest and most important in the world, including around 500,000 works collected since the foundation of the museum in 1852. The RPS collection includes …