The FotoMuseum holds an extensive and very varied collection that covers nearly all aspects of photography, from the earliest beginnings right up to the present day.
The collection records aspects such as the technical conditions under which photographic images were created: the development of cameras and printing apparatus, laboratory and studio equipment, exposure technology, photometry, projection methods, etc. The basis of the photographic apparatus part of the collection was created by the purchase of Michel Auer's private collection in 1973. This already considerable collection has been extended by many smaller purchases and gifts. The Fotomuseum now enjoys international recognition as one of the most important public collections of historical photographic apparatus. This position was further enhanced by the exceptional gift by Agfa-Gevaert of the photographic and film apparatus collection of the former Agfa Foto-Historama.
In its entirety, the collection now offers a broad and highly detailed overview of the historical development of photographic technology in general and the development of different types of camera each responding to different photographic practices. French, British and German camera designers are especially well-represented for understandable reasons, but there are also numerous examples of cameras produced in Switzerland, the United States, the former Soviet Union, Japan and certainly also Belgium.
The FotoMuseum naturally also has an excellent collection of photographs. This collection is notable for its diversity and also reflects the complexity of photography as a medium. The collection does not just illustrate a very diverse range of photographic methods, areas of application and forms of presentation, from the daguerreotype to the hologram, the formal portrait to pornography, the artistic print to the scientific document; it also aims, in particular, to give an insight into the social aspects of the history of photography. It examines the place of photographic images in people's lives and the functioning of a society. Much attention is given to the development of photographic pictorial languages, with different functions such as objective documentation, family archive, journalistic reporting, advertising and artistic expression.
Representative pictures by the most outstanding photographers in the international history of photography are the cornerstones of this collection. Charles Nègre, Henri Le Secq, Edmond Fierlants, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Leonard Misonne, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Willy Kessels, Man Ray, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, William Klein, Lee Freedlander, Robert Adams, Nicholas Nixon, Lynne Cohen, Carl de Keyzer, Dirk Braeckman and Andreas Gursky are only a few names of the dozens of leading photographers who are represented iwith high-quality pictures in this collection. Their work is shown in dialogue with numerous less-known or frequently even anonymous professional and amateur photographers. The express aim is to place Belgian developments and situations in a broader international context. But the collection does not just include photography as an art form. It also includes family albums, business photography, sporting, fashion and advertising photography, examples of scientific applications of photography, photographcially decorated ornamental and functional items, printed texts illustrated with photographs, memorabilia, etc.