Spanning the history of the medium from its beginning in 1839 to the present, the Art Institute's photography collection contains works of many of the medium's celebrated practitioners.

The collection originated in 1949, when Georgia O'Keeffe donated the Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

The acquisition of the Julien Levy Collection, a gift of more than 200 photographs by Edward Weston, and purchases of the work of Paul Strand, Eugéne Atget, and André Kertész have made the department’s collection of modern masters one of the strongest in the world.