Naomi Rosenblum, who wrote about the history of photography and helped elevate it as an art form, died on Feb. 19 at her home in Long Island City, Queens. She was 96.
The cause was congestive heart failure, her family said.
Dr. Rosenblum was the author of seminal works that helped bring scholarship and recognition to photography as a creative art form after practitioners, notably Alfred Stieglitz, had revolutionized the field by defying the conventions of subject matter and composition — creating images in the rain and snow, for example, or of a pattern that the sea cut in the sand.
Histories of photography traditionally focused on England, France and the United States. But Dr. Rosenblum’s major contribution, “A World History of Photography” (1984), provided a true global perspective. The book was translated into several languages and remains a standard text in the field.
women’s participation in photography accelerated after George Eastman introduced the easier-to-use Kodak camera in 1888.
A socially progressive academic, Dr. Rosenblum taught the history of photography at several institutions in New York: Brooklyn College, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Parsons School of Design and the City University of New York Graduate Center.
She lectured around the world, holding seminars in Europe, South America and even China, and received numerous honors, including appointment as a Getty scholar in residence in Los Angeles.
Dr. Rosenblum also curated several major exhibitions, including one of the work of Paul Strand, the influential 20th-century modernist. She helped curate the first comprehensive, large-scale exhibition of women’s photography as fine art, which opened at the New York Public Library in 1996 and traveled the country.
While she had an early education in drawing, painting and sculpture, she was not introduced to photography until she took a course at Brooklyn College taught by Walter Rosenblum, a highly decorated war photographer who was celebrated for his images of defiant American soldiers among the dead at Omaha Beach in World War II and took the first motion picture footage of the Dachau concentration camp after it was liberated. They married in 1949.
Photo League, a cooperative that encouraged socially conscious photography, they associated with leading photographers of the day like Berenice Abbott. (The league was disbanded in 1951 after the F.B.I. accused it of being a subversive organization.) Dr. Rosenblum searched out photographers like Dorothea Lange so she could write knowledgeably about their work, and she studied darkroom techniques.
The Rosenblums became top authorities on Lewis W. Hine, the social realist known for his documentary images of immigrants at Ellis Island, children being exploited as laborers and ironworkers on the Empire State Building.
The couple helped organize a major Hine retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 1977. And as guest curators, they supervised the installation of the museum’s Hine exhibition in 1980 when it traveled to Beijing, the first official loan from an American museum to China.
In the mid-1990s, after Mr. Rosenblum had been selling Hine prints as “vintage,” top art dealers and collectors began to question whether he had printed them long after Mr. Hine’s death in 1940 and was misrepresenting their provenance. Mr. Rosenblum denied wrongdoing, but he reached an out-of-court settlement in 2001 with several art dealers and took back some of the prints he had sold. He died in 2006.
Naomi Eve Baker was born on Jan. 16, 1925, in Los Angeles. Her father, Albert, was an accountant, and her mother, Rebecca (Porringer) Baker, was a nurse’s aide. Their father was absent for a period, and Naomi and her younger sister, Vera, spent time at a children’s home in California.