TARL houses general and site-specific photographs from thousands of archeological sites and projects that dramatically proves, in some cases, that one picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Like the site records themselves, photographs are primary records that document a great many things and circumstances that no longer exist. The standard photographic medium of record is black-and-white photography. Through the years many different formats and film types have been used to photograph archeological sites. The oldest and most fragile photographic materials at TARL are glass plate and nitrate negatives, each stored in special housing within the Records Room. More modern, film-based, black-and-white photographs constitute the bulk of the print files housed in filing cabinets organized the same way the site records are (e.g., by county and site number). Some color prints are included in these files (and digital imagery is now making its way into the collection), but the standard color photographic format of record is color slide film. The color slides, likewise organized by county and site number, are stored in archival notebooks along the rear wall of the Records Room. The Photographic Archives are accessible only to qualified researchers and students, but images are also provided to museums, publishers, and for other educational purposes.
TARL's photographic archives also include a number of special collections donated by individual photographers including E. Mott Davis, Norman Flaigg, Alex Krieger, Wayne Neyland, and Wally Williams. These provide unique records of personal site visits, otherwise undocumented sites and collections, and many of the field schools of the Texas Archeological Society. TARL accepts new photographic collections on a case-by-case basis neatly labeled and organized photographs are much more useful than boxes full of jumbled, unlabeled photographs. In order to prepare a photograph for the archives it must be identified, labeled, catalogued, and placed in acid-free archival sleeves, a costly and time-consuming process.