A photograph of of a woman and young girl, both dressed in traditional Native American garb.

International in scope, and diverse in subject matter, the Crocker’s photography collection features a broad range of photographic styles and media, from early daguerrotypes and tintypes to more modern gelatin silver prints, digital images, and film. 

About the Photography Collection

The Crocker Art Museum’s photography collection is international in scope and diverse in subject matter. It features a broad range of photographic media, from daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes, to albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, digital prints, and moving image. The Crocker family began collecting photographs in 1870, less than fifty years after the first photochemical processes were pioneered by Nicéphore Niépce, Henry Fox Talbot, and Louis Daguerre. The collection’s earliest photographs include nearly 400 stereographs of Gold Rush-era Northern California. Historic and contemporary images of the American West add to the rich history of the Museum and document Sacramento’s place within the development of modern California.

The city of Sacramento occupies an important chapter in the history of photography. In the 1870s, Leland Stanford hired the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge to conduct photographic studies of horses at Sacramento’s Union Park Racetrack (now the Boulevard Park neighborhood). Muybridge captured the first clear images of a galloping horse, marking a significant advancement in international photography and motion studies alike. The Museum holds an important Muybridge chronophotograph of a man working at an anvil taken in 1887. Other collection strengths are American documentary and landscape photography of the early 1900s by Edward Curtis, Brett Weston, Ansel Adams, and Farm Security Administration photographers Dorothea Lange and Marion Post Wolcott. In recent years, the Museum has grown its collection of international street photography from the mid-20th century by artists such as Shirley Baker, Luis C. Garza, and Daido Moriyama.

The Crocker continues to actively expand its contemporary photography collection. A major gift of works by Black photographers, including Dawoud Bey, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Ming Smith, Lewis Watts, Carrie Mae Weems, and Deborah Willis will allow the Museum to present a more inclusive history of photography. Additional acquisitions by contemporary West Coast and California-based photographers Sadie Barnette, Erica Deeman, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Cara Romero, and Stephanie Syjuco explore personal family histories, race, and gender identities.