When The Met first opened its doors in 1870, photography was still relatively new. Yet over the preceding three decades it had already developed into a complex pictorial language of documentation, social and scientific inquiry, self-expression, and artistic endeavor.

These initial years of photography's history are the focus of this exhibition, which features new and recent gifts to the Museum, many offered in celebration of The Met's 150th anniversary and presented here for the first time. The works on view, from examples of candid portraiture and picturesque landscape to pioneering travel photography and photojournalism, chart the varied interests and innovations of early practitioners.

The exhibition, which reveals photography as a dynamic medium through which to view the world, is the first of a two-part presentation that plays on the association of "2020" with clarity of vision while at the same time honoring farsighted and generous collectors and patrons. The second part will move forward a century, bringing together works from the 1940s through the 1960s.