Mark Cohen

Why photography needs museums

As the V&A announces plans for its major new photography centre, opening in October, we talk to Senior Curator Martin Barnes about the important role that museums play in setting photography within a wider historical and cultural context.

The photography landscape in the UK is thriving right now, with significant exhibitions appearing regularly in major gallery and museum spaces across the country. There is also an exciting festival scene, including established events such as Photo London, taking place this weekend, and newcomers such as Photo North, arriving in Harrogate for the first time this autumn.

Into this exciting environment comes a major new photography centre at the V&A in London, which will double the space currently devoted to the medium at the museum. The new space will draw from the V&A’s extensive collection, as well as the Royal Photographic Society’s collection, which was recently transferred to the London site from National Media Museum in Bradford. Included in its extensive opening display will be historical works by William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron and Frederick Scott Archer, as well as more recent acquisitions from the likes of Hiroshi Sugimoto, Cornelia Parker, Linda McCartney and Mark Cohen.