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Our History


Houston Center for Photography began as a member and artist-run cooperative in 1981 and was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1982.


Its mission has always been to promote the art and practice of photography in all its forms through various programs that take place both on and off-site our museum district facility. HCP conforms to the kunsthalle tradition of a professionally managed, permanent institution that exhibits but does not collect works of art.

In the four decades since its establishment, HCP has come to be seen as a model for mid-sized nonprofit arts organizations, receiving support from philanthropic leaders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Endowment, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Joy of Giving Something Foundation, among others.


HCP is governed by an ethnically diverse 24-member board, which includes business professionals, physicians, lawyers, educators, photographers and gallery owners. Additional guidance is provided by a 30-member advisory council comprised of collectors, curators, educators, and artists. The organization has grown to include a staff of six, which is assisted by several interns each semester and hundreds of volunteers.


In 2006, HCP opened the doors to its Learning Center, and has since expanded its on-site education programming to reach over 1,500 students annually through over 300 classes taught by local experts as well as icons of the medium. The Learning Center includes a state-of-the-art Digital Darkroom, where artists can print their work using professional printers and scanners, a professional Lighting Studio, and a Critique Room, where classes and monthly member critiques are held. Finally, the Learning Center proudly includes the John Cleary Library, which holds over 4,000 artists’ books, monographs, histories, and journals on photography. It is the only publicly-accessible library dedicated solely to photography in the region.