The Pritzker Center for Photography

One of the first museums to recognize photography as an art form, SFMOMA has more than 17,800 photographic works, dating from the advent of the medium in 1839 to the digital images of today. Deepening and expanding our commitment to photography, the new Pritzker Center for Photography nearly triples the space dedicated to photography, filling the majority of the third floor. Encompassing fifteen thousand square feet, the Pritzker Center is the largest space permanently dedicated to photography in any art museum in the United States. The center includes enhanced permanent collection galleries and new special exhibition galleries, along with a study center and a Photography Learning Lounge.

The print study center gives visiting scholars and students the opportunity for hands-on viewing of prints, drawings, and photographs. The adjacent meeting space promotes collaboration between curators, scholars, artists, teachers, and the public.

Our innovative Photography Learning Lounge lets you experience photography in a whole new way. Through interactive exhibits, you can explore how photography shapes perceptions of California, create a portrait of yourself without showing your face, and more.

Paul Sack Photographic Trust

Visitors to the Museum and its Study Center can view an ongoing exhibition of selected works from the Paul Sack Photographic Trust.

Upcoming Exhibitions

Selections from the Sack Photographic Trust: Helen Levitt

The photographs of Helen Levitt (b. 1913, New York; died 2009, New York) look almost exclusively at activity transpiring in public spaces of New York City, including spontaneous sandlot baseball games, masked Halloween revelry, and impromptu dance parties. Through her lens, sidewalks and stoops transform into makeshift stages for a cast of urban players — many of whom are children. Teeming with life, her photographs capture imaginative moments of play and animated alliances that would be lost to time if not for her astute eye and quick shutter release. Yet sentimentality has no place in her images, and unlike her peers of the 1930s and 1940s, she does not focus on the dire social conditions of the era. Instead, Levitt was drawn to the rhythmic beauty of urban life. Elegant, balletic, and anti-monumental, her photographs encourage an awareness of the poetic richness of the quotidian as well as the fleeting nature of life.

This exhibition will be on view on Floor 3 starting March 18, 2023, and will be included as part of General Admission.

Exhibition Preview

Helen Levitt, New York, 1940; collection of the Sack Photographic Trust; © Estate of Helen Levitt, represented by Galerie Thomas Zander;
photo: Don Ross
Helen Levitt, New York, 1945; collection of the Sack Photographic Trust; © Estate of Helen Levitt, represented by Galerie Thomas Zander;
photo: Don Ross
Helen Levitt, New York, 1939; collection of the Sack Photographic Trust; © Estate of Helen Levitt, represented by Galerie Thomas Zander;
photo: Don Ross

Inside Out

The invention of the camera obscura was predicated on the discovery that light passing through a small aperture will create an image in reverse. From the eye itself to mirrors, windows, doorways, and arches, photography has often been used to picture various kinds of apertures and portals. Yet the photograph itself, too, functions as a portal by virtue of its frame; it is a means of granting visual access and revealing unconventional perspectives. This eclectic selection of photographs from the Sack Photographic Trust embraces this theme broadly, featuring not only the above subject matter but also phone booths and photo booths, mysterious voids, boldly graphic scenes created by the fleeting apertures of light and shadow, and even works where the photographic object is cut into a shape. Spanning from the 19th century to now, the range of objects in this presentation represent the endless inventiveness of photographers, and showcase how photographs can help us see “inside out.”

This exhibition will be on view in the Collections Study Center starting March 18, 2023. To visit the Collections Study Center, please email studycenterappointment@sfmoma.org. We are open by appointment Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–noon and 1–4 p.m.

Exhibition Preview

Lee Friedlander, New York City, 1963; collection of the Sack Photographic Trust; © Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco and Luhring Augustine, New York; photo: Don Ross
Francesca Woodman, Untitled, New York, 1979; promised gift of Paul Sack to the Sack Photographic Trust; © Woodman Family Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; photo: Don Ross
Unknown, Untitled, ca. 1875; collection of the Sack Photographic Trust; photo: Don Ross

Support for the Pritzker Center for Photography is made possible by the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund.

The Photography Learning Lounge is generously supported by the McEvoy Family.

Photography Learning Lounge exhibits are supported by

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Additional support is provided by Nion McEvoy; a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. SFMOMA’s Digital Initiatives are generously supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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