About the Institute

The National Gallery of Canada is establishing the Canadian Photography Institute (CPI), a world-class, multidisciplinary research centre dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography.

The CPI will position Canada as a global leader in the field of photographic studies and offer an active program, accessible collection, research hub and digital portal for academic and public engagement.

Built on the foundation of the National Gallery’s acclaimed Photographs Collection, the CPI will house one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of photographs and related materials, representing the entire history of the medium and revealing the most important stories of the modern era. With the finest resources and programs, the CPI will attract creative thinkers and scholars from far and wide, stimulate ideas and generate discoveries.

Why Photography?

Photography is the most varied of pictorial techniques, ranging from daguerreotypes and silver gelatin prints, to large scale back-lit transparencies and building-size murals, digital images to ink jet prints.

Since its invention in 1839, the photograph has been used as an instrument for scientific research, historical documentation and journalism, as well as artistic expression. As an art form, it has had a profound influence on other media, functioning as an aide-mémoire for painters and sculptors, as a catalyst for the development of abstraction, and as inspiration for the cubists, who borrowed forms from aerial photography and x-rays. The influence of photography on contemporary culture cannot be overstated; humanity has become ever more dependent on and demanding of images. Digital photography is now a universal, daily, even hourly pastime, a standard medium for both mass and private communication. In future, the photographic image will be even more ubiquitous and versatile.

Photographs play an important role at the National Gallery, where they have been collected since 1967. Although it has long emphasized the photograph as a category of fine art, in recent years the National Gallery has taken a much broader interest in the medium, in tandem with a contemporary artistic culture that explores the whole photographic field in its rich diversity, as a subject, a source of ideas, or a bank of shared cultural references.


The creation of the Canadian Photography Institute is a historic first for the Gallery, the launch of a centre of national and global importance. It also signals the triumph of a creative partnership of David Thomson, Scotiabank, the National Gallery of Canada and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation.

David Thomson
The Canadian Photography Institute will be supported through a partnership with collector and philanthropist David Thomson, of Toronto, who has agreed to help the Gallery build the Institute’s collection through a series of donations of photographs and related materials over the coming decade.

Founding Partner
Scotiabank is the Founding Partner and exclusive donor from the financial services sector to the Canadian Photography Institute.

The National Gallery of Canada Foundation
By fostering strong philanthropic partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally.

Lynne Cohen

Spa (detail), 1999, chromogenic print, 80.6 x 102.1 cm sight; integral frame: 110.9 x 131.5 x 2.8 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. © Lynne Cohen

Josef Sudek

Last Rose (detail), 1956, gelatin silver print, 29.1 x 23.2 cm; image: 28.2 x 23.2 cm. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2010. © Estate of Josef Sudek. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The Collection

The National Gallery’s existing Photographs Collection is widely respected, with a record of groundbreaking photographs exhibitions and stellar publications. It now encompasses over 50,000 photographs and 146,000 negatives, including works by some of photography’s key practitioners, which the Gallery has collected in depth: William Henry Fox Talbot, Charles Nègre, P.H. Emerson, Hill and Adamson, Frederick H. Evans, Josef Sudek, Walker Evans, Lisette Model, Leon Levinstein, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Lynne Cohen, Arnaud Maggs, Mark Ruwedel and Edward Burtynsky.

The bedrock of the CPI will be its vast and complete collection of photography, from its origins to the present day.

It also includes a small but fine collection of European and American daguerreotypes, some rare nineteenth-century war photographs, and, from the former Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, an important and comprehensive collection of Canadian photography from 1964 to 2008. Among the areas of growing interest to the National Gallery are African, Asian and historical Canadian photographs. The National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives has the most comprehensive collection of documentation on photography in Canada.

Building on the foundation of the National Gallery of Canada’s collection, David Thomson, Chairman of Thomson Reuters and long-time partner of the National Gallery, will donate a substantial part of the remarkable Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC) to the CPI. The AMC includes a rich collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century photographic material relating to the history of modern conflict and the human condition. Successive donations of objects by Mr. Thomson and a collaborative partnership to strategically build the collection over the next decade will see it grow exponentially in scale. These include rare early photographic equipment and superb historical photographs from around the globe as well as the international press archives, including The Globe and Mail.

Bringing together these two major collections, the CPI will possess an encyclopedic collection of photographic materials, representing the entire evolution of the medium, throughout the world, and in varied genres. It will boast a richly comprehensive source of Canadian historical photography, including indigenous. It promises to be one of the top-ranking collections internationally, offering a wide range of curatorial, technological, research and public outreach opportunities.



Housed in the National Gallery of Canada, the CPI will attract enthusiasts and professionals in various disciplines from all over the world.

Program features will include:

  • year-round photographic exhibitions
  • research fellowships
  • publications
  • symposia, conferences, workshops and public lectures
  • websites & collection databases for multidisciplinary users, scholars, and the general public
  • dynamic collaborative partnerships

Over the next few years, the CPI will focus much of its resources towards digitizing its collection and developing a cutting-edge digital library to ensure widespread dissemination of its collection and associated research. Other digital resources will include online research papers and catalogues, videos with interviews or behind-the-scenes tours, online exhibitions, and interpretive content associated with images.


Establishing the CPI in a national museum ensures a permanent repository for its collections, accessible today and centuries from now. The National Gallery of Canada’s Ottawa premises offer numerous opportunities: an object-focused approach; the ability to study photographs in the context of other art media; the ready alliance of curators, conservators, collections managers and archivists; and the availability of world class conservation laboratories, storage vaults, exhibition space and library resources. The National Gallery’s beautiful building, accessible to the general public, offers an incomparable environment for study, viewing and exhibitions.


The CPI is conceived as an institution for a large community of stakeholders. Its audience will be broad, from the general public to frequent museum-goers, scholars, artists, Canadians and people from around the world. Its partners and supporters will include private and corporate funders, government, universities, museums and other institutions. The CPI will be managed within the National Gallery administration, with a staff made up of expert curators, conservators, librarians, archivists and collections management professionals, all of whom will be dedicated to the preservation, advancement and dissemination of the medium.


Cutline: The Photography Archives of The Globe and Mail

28 October 2016 – 12 February 2017
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Galleries B102 and B103

Revisit the golden age of newspaper photography through The Globe and Mail’s archives. Powerful, compelling and provocative, these photographs were the lens through which Canadians witnessed the defining moments of the twentieth century: war, political events, social revolutions and cultural icons.

Organized by the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada, The Globe and Mail and Archive of Modern Conflict.

The Intimate World
of Josef Sudek

Paris Presentation:
Josef Sudek: The World at My Window

7 June – 25 September 2016
Jeu de Paume, Concorde, Paris

Ottawa Presentation:
The Intimate World of Josef Sudek

28 October 2016 – 26 February 2017
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Czech photographer Josef Sudek (1896–1976) produced some of the twentieth century’s most haunting images taken through the window of his studio, as well as of gardens, parks and streets of his beloved city, Prague. Working solely with bulky large-format cameras, despite losing an arm in the First World War, Sudek was a master of pigment and silver print processes. He pushed photography beyond its preoccupations with painterly and modernist styles to explore his own particular brand of romanticism. This Canadian Photography Institute exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada is the first major show to examine the work and life of Sudek and his intimate circle of artist friends during the decades before and after the Second World War.

For more on admission, hours, and location, visit the National Gallery of Canada website.

Organized by the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada.

Harry McLorinan

Camera, c. 1961, gelatin silver print, 22.4 × 17.3 cm. Gift of the Globe and Mail Newspaper to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada

Josef Sudek

Labyrinth on My Table (detail), 1967, gelatin silver print, 27.7 × 24.4 cm. Gift of an anonymous donor, 2010. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. © Estate of Josef Sudek

Top Image
Lutz Dille, New York City (detail), 1959, printed 1995, gelatin silver print, 23.7 x 30.3 cm; image: 22.5 x 19.3 cm. Purchased from the Photography Collectors Group Fund, 1999. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Top Image
John Evans, Nathan Stolow and Brydon Smith, February 1–12, 1965 (detail), © Doris Evans. Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Ottawa

613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS
Fax: 613-990-8075
TDD: 613-990-0777

National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive, P.O. Box 427
Station A, Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1N 9N4

NGC Newsletter
Follow NGC