Optical switching and image storage were explored by means of azobenzene liquid crystals (LCs). Azobenzene derivatives with monomeric and polymeric forms were prepared, which show nematic LC phase in the trans form while no LC phase in the cis form. On pulse irradiation at 355 nm, which causes trans-cis isomerization of the azobenzene moiety, these azobenzene LC films underwent nematic (N) to isotropic (1) phase transition in 100 ˜ 200 μs as probed by change in transmittance of a He-Ne laser through crossed polarizers (transmission-mode analysis) or change in reflectivity at the interface between the sample and glass substrate (reflection-mode analysis). In the reflection-mode analysis, the decay was faster than that observed in the transmission-mode analysis. The N phase recovered through the cis-trans thermal backisomerization process in the transmission-mode analysis, while it was restored through diffusion of the cis form, followed by reorientation of the trans form which replaced the cis form in the interface region, in the reflection-mode analysis. The photochemical N-I phase transition was also induced in 200 μs below Tg of the polymer azobenzene LC. Image could be stored into the polymer azobenzene LC film on photoirradiation to bring about the N-I phase transition and the stored image remained unchanged even after one year when it was kept below Tg of the polymer.