Visit this museum to journey through the history of the photography medium, which both captures the real world and transforms it into art.
Experience the history and essence of photography at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts. Opened in 1983, this museum is one of the world’s premier institutions for promotion and preservation of fine camerawork.
Enter the museum through a fittingly photogenic Greco-Roman façade, which features attractive arches with intricate detailing. The permanent collection consists of over 7,000 images taken by over 850 photographers. Be inspired as you browse galleries that prove photography can provide both documentary records and artistic expression.
Begin with examples of photography’s earliest years in the 19th century, when images were printed on sheets plated with a silver-copper mix or gold, silver and egg white. Inspect the pioneering works of Francis Frith, a 19th-century British photographer who captured scenes from the Middle East. Feel the perfectionist intent of Alfred Stieglitz, an American cameraman whose works helped to make photography an accepted art form in the 19th century.
See vivid images of life in New York City by W. Eugene Smith, the Great Depression by Berenice Abbott and migrant workers by Dorothea Lange. Learn about the influential Susan Meiselas, whose photographic documentation of the 1978 war in Nicaragua made headlines when it was published in the New York Times. Examine the astute and occasionally shocking artworks of John Heartfield, whose digital photomontages of reconstructed images produce potent social commentary.
Enjoy a selection of temporary exhibits that display the conceptual styles and history of photography in colorful, enthralling or shocking exhibits. Learn about the pioneers of photography, the exploration of identity through the camera’s lens and how the art has affected cultural fabrics.
The museum also features the state-of-the-art Joan and Irwin Jacobs Theater, where influential films from throughout the 20th century are screened. Browse the museum gift shop to find a selection of cameras and accessories for starting your own portfolio.
The Museum of Photographic Arts is located in Balboa Park in central San Diego. Access the area by car or bus. The museum is open daily except Mondays and has an admission fee.