Based on a selection of photographs drawn primarily from the Victoria and Albert Museum's own collection this website features the work of more than seventy photographers ranging from Eadward Muybridge and Julia Margaret Cameron to Bill Brandt and Cecil Beaton.
Some of the photographers deserve to have more of their work featured than is included here - William Henry Fox Talbot for his pioneering work, and Edwin Smith whose architectural and landscape photographs captured the underlying romanticism of a way of life that was rapidly changing in the 1950s and early 1960s. There are short biographical profiles of the photographers, with explanations of some superb photographs - just check out the documentary street photographs by Roger Mayne. Many of them were taken during the 1950s when for five years he concentrated on photographing Southam Street in London's Notting Dale, the district in which Colin MacInness contemporary novel Absolute Beginners was set.
Mayne explains his photography in this way: "There are two kinds of photographs. There's the decisive moment and there's the contrived photograph and I think contrived photography has come back rather. But the kind of photography I like is the decisive moment, and I think the power of photography is in this. I think - to paraphrase Susan Sontag - the fascination of photography is as a trace of an event that has actually happened."
There is also a good explanation of different photographic processes used.