The FJJMA's photography collection celebrates the history of the medium. The collection was precociously begun in 1937, when Oscar Jacobson, the museum's director, acquired for the fledgling museum three photographs by Edward Weston. In 1942, Jacobson added to this nucleus two more photographs by Weston.
The period of most rapid growth for the photography collection was the 1970s and early 1980s, during the directorship of Sam Olkinetzky, with the particular guidance of Edwin J. "Jim" Deighton, then the museum's assistant director and, himself, a photographer. During this time, prices were affordable because the market for photography was still nascent, and important examples by major photographers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were acquired.
The collection has grown to almost thirteen hundred prints. Particular strengths include 26 vintage photographs by Berenice Abbott and 27 by W. Eugene Smith. Recently, the FJJMA Museum Association has given prints by Michael Kenna, while well-known photography collectors Richard and Ellen Sandor of Chicago have donated vintage works by Bill Brandt, Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward S. Curtis, André Kertész, W. Eugene Smith, and James VanDerZee, Garry Winogrand, and others.