New York Public Library Launches Biographical History of Photography Database

April 6, 2016 by No Comments

cameraFor those with an interest in pictures and the photographers who take them, a new database launched by the the New York Public Library (NYPL) will be like an interactive museum right at home. According to, the NYPL has developed what they’re calling the online Photographers’ Identities Catalog (PIC).

Through this online database, users will be able to search through the biographical data of approximately 110,000 photographers, dating back to some of the earliest days of the craft. For example, the earliest listing on the site currently is Johann Heinrich Schulze in 1687, and you can search right up to current photographers in the world today.

“[PIC] is an experimental interface to a collection of biographical data describing photographers, studios, manufacturers, and others involved in the production of photographic images,” the site’s front page description reads. “Consisting of names, nationalities, dates, locations and more, PIC is a vast and growing resource for the historian, student, genealogist, or any lover of photography’s history. The information has been culled from trusted biographical dictionaries, catalogs and databases, and from extensive original research by NYPL Photography Collection staff.”

Along with learning basic information about various photographers (date of birth, location etc.), the database also tells users where to find the works of these professionals. While they would traditionally be found in places like studios and organizational databases, it will be interesting to see if social media platforms will be included in this project as well. According to one recent study, professional photographs were twice as likely as user-generated photographs to be shared via those means.

The ability to determine a pretty accurate time-frame of when an old photograph you may have found was taken is one of the more fascinating aspects of the project. The search engine has many different ways to go about tracking down this sort of information by allowing users to search by studio, name, location, year, and gender just to name a few categories.

The collection is regularly updated, and the NYPL is accepting any and all contributions to the growing art history and research tool.

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