The Gallery’s photography collection began in 1975 with the gift of 90 works from the family of 20th-century pictorialist and proto-modernist Harold Cazneaux. Today, there are more than 4500 photographs in the collection, celebrating the extraordinary diversity of the medium. Of these, 80% are Australian and half are from the last 30 years.
The photography collection has major holdings of a wide variety of artists including Tracey Moffatt, Bill Henson, Fiona Hall, Micky Allan, Mark Johnson, Max Pam and Lewis Morley. As well as contemporary photography, Australian pictorialism, modernism and postwar photodocumentary are particular strengths, through members of the Sydney Camera Circle, and Max Dupain and David Moore. The evolution of 19th-century Australian photography is represented with emphasis on the work of Charles Bayliss and Kerry & Co. International photographs include strong holdings of English pictorialism and the European avant garde (Bauhaus, constructivism and surrealism). Photodocumentary in 20th-century America is reflected through the work of Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange among others, and contemporary Asian practices are represented by artists such as Yasumasa Morimura and Miwa Yanagi. Styles range from the formal aesthetics of early photography to the informal snapshots of Weegee to the high fashion of Helmut Newton and Bettina Rheims.