The Museum's photography collection was begun in 1977 with Israeli photographer Micha Bar Am, and encompasses important pictures of the Middle East taken by 19th and early 20th century European photographers, such as Francis Frith and Félix Bonfils, and a collection of rare glass negatives of E.M. Lilien donated by the Schocken family; works by American photojournalists W. Eugene Smith and Weegee, donated by Michael S. Sachs; as well as photographs by Robert Capa donated by Cornell and Edith Capa, and other international Modernist and Post-Modernist artists. A collection of Soviet photography from the 1930s to 1970s was donated by Howard Schickler and David LaFaille and an anonymous donor. Courtesy of the Marc Rich Foundation for Education, Cultura and Welfare, the Department has a strong representation of works by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Thanks to donations by Michaela and Leon Constantiner, who initiated the Constantiner Photography Award for an Israeli Artist, the representation of contemporary Israeli photography in the collection has been growing steadily, now including works by internationally renowned photographers Adi Nes, Pavel Wolberg and Barry Frydlender.