The MKG began to collect and display photography from the late 19th century. It was one of the first German museums to do so. Today the collection comprises well over 75.000 works. At a time when photography was considered a means of recording rather than art, the MKG recognised this new medium’s importance and laid the foundation for a continuously expanding photography collection of objects and architecture.
Today its collection also includes photographs of fashion, photographic journalism and artist photography. The collection records photography’s stylistic and technical development. Starting with the Daguerreotype of the 19th century to the manual printing methods of the 20th century and the early colour photography of the 1930s the works held by the MKG illustrate the history of photography up to digital photography of the present day. In 1916/1917 the collection was considerably extended with the acquisition of the Juhl collection of internationally famous art photographs of the early 20th century.
Together with Fritz Kempe’s (1909-1988) collection on the history of photography it forms the historical nucleus of the photography department. From 1980 until 1996 the "Verein der Freunde der Fotografie im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe" made important donations and acquisitions, thereby extending the collection continuously. In 1991 Prof. F. C. Gundlach (*1926) boosted the collection of fashion photography with his donation "Stiftung ModeWelten". The high photosensitivity of the majority of the works makes them unsuitable for long-term exhibition. Therefore the photographic collection of the MKG is regularly presented in special exhibitions.