|Pictures: Business and Art
The Girl in the moon. Copyright 1923. Prints and Photographs Division.
Pictures have traditionally been put into service to market ideas and products. But pictures themselves have increasingly
been products marketed to an expanding consumer base.
The Prints and Photographs Division's collections support the study of image-making as a business—how image makers created
pictures directly for consumption by the public.
- Archives of photographic firms and studios reflect the application of photographic technology, almost from its inception,
to fueling consumer interest in the likenesses it could produce.
- Collections highlighting particular photographic formats illuminate the rapid proliferation of a variety of photographic product
- The division's cumulation of historical prints demonstrates the ways in which print publishers at the same time used nonphotographic
technologies for reproducing images in order to feed and further stimulate consumer demand for pictures.
Swan dive. Mabel J. Jack. 1939. Prints and Photographs Division.
The business of making pictures is not easily separated from the creation of pictures for art's sake, however. The products
of commercial photo studios and print publishers highlight the marriage of aesthetics and commerce. Although the division
has historically made a distinction between prints and photographs mass-produced for sale to a broad market and those produced
for the fine art market, the distinctions do not always hold up in practice. Both photographs and prints have traditionally
provided a relatively inexpensive, democratic means of bringing art to the masses; both have also earned reputations as special
forms of aesthetic expression, savored by the elite.
Select from the navigator bar on the left for introductions to these multifaceted pictorial products.