Room 29: A Century of Photography 1840 - 1940
See the portraits currently on display in Room 29 here
Photographs have been collected at the National Portrait Gallery almost since the Gallery was founded in 1856. However, it was not until the 1960's that the Gallery embraced photography as an art form, and began collecting for aesthetic, and not simply documentary reasons. Currently, the Collection includes some 250,000 examples, spanning the history of photography and representing a wide variety of techniques. It is designated as the National Collection of Photographic Portraiture.
The photographs in this room have been chosen to illustrate photography's expressive power. The best photographs show us not just what a person looked like, but also provide a window on their character, giving us a sense of what it might have been like to be in their prescience. This is one of the great paradoxes of photographic portraiture – that something of a person's spirit, thought, and feeling might be glimpsed in one, carefully chosen moment in time.