Instant access to rare and historical collections from Los Angeles Public Library

About the Photo Collection

The Los Angeles Public Library began collecting photographs sometime before World War II and amassed a collection of about 13,000 images by the late 1950s. In 1981, when Los Angeles celebrated its 200th birthday, Security Pacific National Bank gave its noted collection of historical photographs to the people of Los Angeles to be archived at the Central Library. Since then, LAPL has been fortunate to receive other major collections and special archives, making the Library a resource worldwide for visual images.

In 1991, the non-profit Photo Friends was established to assist the library in encouraging residents to donate copies of their family photos as part of the Shades of L.A. project. Later, Photo Friends secured grant funding to commission contemporary photos by local photographers. Photo Friends is still active, sponsoring programs, publishing books, and most recently helped raise close to $250,000 for the digitization of the Valley Times Collection. Additional information about Photo Friends is available at

The library has been digitizing photos since 1998 and was one of the first public libraries to do so. As of May 2018, approximately 126,000 images have been digitized and made accessible through this site with hundreds more added each month. Our collection is also discoverable through the Digital Public Library of America, Calisphere, and the Online Archive of California.

Ask a Photo Collection Question

For more information please use this email form. You can also contact us by phone or fax. A staff member will normally respond to your query within 2 business days.

  • Photo Collection Telephone Number: 213-228-7274
  • Photo Collection Fax Number: 213-228-7419

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