MOV File
Online Collections

70 Years/70 Photographs

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927), La Villette, Prostitute Offering Her Services, 19th Arrondissement, Paris, 1921, gelatin silver print, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Mrs. Alda Jourdan and Mr. Robert Paulus, no known copyright restrictions, 53.10.1


A museum's permanent collection is shaped over many years, honed by curators, donors, prevailing tastes, and even economic patterns. In 1942, during a period when museums across the United States were just beginning to acknowledge photography as a fine art, the Portland Art Museum acquired its first photographs. This rotation of the collection celebrates seventy years of actively collecting photography with seventy outstanding works from holdings that now comprise more than seven thousand images. Until the mid-twentieth century, many institutions catalogued photographs—which were sometimes grouped as portfolios or bound in books—as documents rather than independent aesthetic objects, often housing them in the museum library instead of the fine art collection. During the early 1940s, multiple centenary celebrations of photography’s invention, as well as modern art’s embrace of new and diverse means of expression, drew greater attention to the artistic properties of the medium. Like the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and other institutions at the forefront of the promotion of photography, in 1942 the Portland Art Museum established its own photography collection with more than one hundred of Minor White’s exceptional photographs of Portland. Additions to the Museum’s holdings were robust in some years and limited in others until the first Curator of Photography was hired in 1985. Since that time, donations and purchases have increased some tenfold. Many of the earliest acquisitions are still among the Museum’s finest, including classic portfolios by Ansel Adams and Minor White, as well as selections by Harry Callahan, Eugène Atget, and Marion Post Wolcott. In recent years, curators have actively added a wide range of works to these cornerstones of the collection, acquiring color, conceptual, and digital images, thoughtfully shaping an international and encyclopedic collection and reinforcing the Museum’s continued commitment to the display and collection of photography.

Curated by Julia Dolan

Exhibition Title

70 Years/70 Photographs



Curated by

Julia Dolan

Begin Date


End Date


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The Portland Art Museum’s Online Collections site is brought to you thanks to support provided by the State of Oregon through its second Culture, History, Arts, Movies, and Preservation funding program and generous awards from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.