The University of Arizona

Our Story


We are a research institution with a robust program of exhibitions and public lectures. We are the largest institution in the world devoted to documenting the history of modern North American photography.

At the heart of the Center are the archives of over 200 photographers, scholars, galleries, and organizations, comprising over 5 million items, complemented by an unparalleled collection of over 90,000 fine prints by 2,200 photographers. These collections continue to grow through gift and purchase. Recently, we unveiled the new Laura Volkerding Study Center, where researchers can study items from the fine print collection side-by-side with negatives, transparencies, correspondence, and other materials. Our support of scholarship continues to grow through our fellowship and visiting scholars program.

The Center has a direct impact on the creation of new knowledge about photography historically through today. We offer curators and scholars the resources to borrow and curate exhibits at their institutions, to write journal articles, books, and exhibition catalogs that are read by thousands, and to create new websites accessible to the world. Photographers are inspired by studying our collections, and their creativity expands the universe of art for the world to enjoy.

Our Mission

We actively collect, preserve, present, and interpret photographic collections of extraordinary quality, in order to stimulate the imagination, advance scholarship, and encourage creativity.

Our Vision

The Center for Creative Photography is dedicated to the enjoyment and appreciation of works of art. We believe that meaningful engagement with the work of some of the world’s greatest photographers can stimulate discussion, inquiry, and understanding.

Our Audience

The Center serves many audiences, locally and internationally. Our primary users are scholars, curators, graduate students, commercial picture researchers, and professional photographers from around the world. We also serve the faculty, instructors, and students of the University of Arizona and Pima Community College. Local community members are served by free access to exhibitions and evening lectures. The Center is a major tourist destination as evidenced in guidebooks and websites addressed to visitors to Tucson.

Our Institutional Values

We believe that knowledge and art are intrinsically valuable to society and people's lives. We also believe that photography is accessible, exciting, and participatory, and that photography as a medium offers special insights into the nature of reality, the human condition, and our place in history. In the service of these ideals, we are dedicated to intellectual freedom, professional integrity, respect for a diversity of viewpoints, and learning as a life-long project. We hold our collections in trust for all people and are committed to responsible management and the highest standards in serving scholars and the public. Teamwork, collaboration, flexibility, and openness to new ideas and new ways of working are essential to realizing our mission.

Our History

Excerpt from the John P. Schaefer article in Original Sources: Art and Archives at the Center For Creative Photography

The Center for Creative Photography is the product of the vision of one of the medium’s greatest masters, Ansel Adams, … and my conviction as university president that photography is a key element of the art and literature of our times. During the opening of a one-man exhibition of Ansel’s photographs at the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art, I ventured to ask him if he would be interested in placing the archives of his work at the University. Ansel, though somewhat surprised by the direct nature of my suggestion, responded by saying that he was not interested in having his work stand as an isolated collection. If, however, the University were willing to think in broader terms and include the works of many other photographers, he would be interested in exploring the possibilities. What followed was an invitation to visit him at his home in Carmel.

Conversations with Ansel in December 1974 were a revelation as he shared his own history in photography, in conservation, in writing and teaching with me. I, in turn, put forth ideas about what I believed the University was and could become, and why photography deserved the serious attention of students and scholars alike. We spoke of archives, teaching programs, seminars, visiting scholars, and collecting and preservation, publication, the creation of exhibitions; over the course of days the concept of the Center for Creative Photography was born… Harry Callahan, Wynn Bullock, Frederick Sommer, and Aaron Siskind joined with Ansel to found the first archives of the Center. W. Eugene Smith soon joined the University’s faculty. Paul Strand contributed much of his work, and the archive of Edward Weston was later added to the growing collections.

Within a year the Center became an international presence in the field of photography. It remains an active “work in progress,” awaiting the next photograph, a key letter, significant memorabilia, a run of magazines, a rare book—all of which are vital to a living and growing archive.

Annual Reports

2012 Annual Report

2011 Annual Report

2008 Annual Report

Contact Information