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Getty Images, 80 million images dating back to the beginning of photography


Getty Images, the world leader in visual communication, has the largest privately held archive globally with an estimated 80 million images dating back to the beginning of photography.   The archive includes over 30 image partners including LIFE Picture Collection, Gamma-Rapho, Paris Match and New York Daily News. This is the first segment in a series that will reveal the unique collections within the Getty Images archive.

Story by, Bob Ahern, Director, Archival Imagery, Getty Images

It is a rare idea indeed to think that beauty can be found deep within a morgue and yet as director of archival imagery at Getty Images, that is exactly what I expect to discover and recently did.

After the recent announcement of a distribution partnership between Getty Images and Conde Nast, that would see a wealth of iconic imagery made available through Getty Images in a one-a-kind Collection, I had the privilege of being able to sift through one of the most important fashion archives in the world. The Conde Nast archive, colloquially known as the ‘morgue’ contains over 1.5 million images stored in a state-of-the-art facility in New York.

Having visited hundreds of archives, you see history in an array of conditions, but the Conde Archives, overseen by Shawn Waldron, senior director of archives and records, is an immaculate treasure trove. Preserving the narratives of our past is vital to finding our way forward, and it is archives such as Conde Nast’s that enable us to join the important dots between past and present.

Fashion photography changes through the years of course and like any art with an arc it’s an expression of changing times. Whether in the posed elegance of famed photographer Edward Steichen’s world, or the journey through the 50s and 60s, as Richard Avedon and London’s ‘Black Trinity’ took fashion photography by the scruff of its neck and out of the studio and onto the streets, or to the surreal and sexualized shoots of the 70s through to the global brands of the commercial 80s, the story of fashion photography is as much a cultural journey as it is artistic and technical.

My visit to the archives revealed a number of rare and unseen images from these eras that have now been given incredible new life through the Getty Images Conde Nast Collection. Unpublished images by revered photographers such as Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Arthur Elgort and Patrick Demarchelier were uncovered within boxes, some of which hadn’t been opened in decades.

Individually, these photos are of course beautiful to look at, however collectively, they offer us an unprecedented and unique view into almost century of fashion. The following images are but a glimpse into the archive, representative of over 20,000 images that have been added to the Conde Nast Collection on and a selection of which will be made available at Getty Images’ home art store,

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