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Prints and Photographs Division



Graphic Journalism and Illustration
Photojournalism Collections
Documentary Surveys
Advertising and Propaganda
arrow graphicPictures: Business and Art
Professional Photographers
Commercial Photographs of Native Americans
Detroit Publishing Company
Panoramic Photographs
Stereographs/Card Photos
Individually Cataloged Photographs
Fine Prints
Popular Graphic Arts
Design Collections
Organizations' Records
Personal Papers



Pictures: Business and Art
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The Girl in the moon. Copyright 1923. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record

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 lines.
  • 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.

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Swan dive. Mabel J. Jack. 1939. Prints and Photographs Division.
bibliographic record

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.

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