In an age where everyone is a photographer, when state-of-the-art cameras fit in our pockets, how does a photography museum stay current? It's a question that the curators of New York's International Center of Photography ask themselves often. And as the 42-year-old museum moves from its longtime home in Midtown Manhattan to a brand new space on the Lower East Side, reexamining the ever-changing medium is more relevant than ever.
Opening tomorrow, I.C.P.'s new glass-fronted space continues the tradition of spotlighting the social impact of photography. In addition to its expanded galleries, the new location boasts a bookstore curated by Spaces Corners (an artist-run photography bookstore in Pittsburgh), an area to host lectures and workshops, and a wall for temporary installations, all of which curator-in-residence Charlotte Cotton likens to "a village square."
In the new space's inaugural exhibition Public, Private, Secret, work by photography luminaries—Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, and Andy Warhol—meets images by post-internet artists—Natalie Bookchin, Phil Collins, and others—presenting a range of voices, all studying how identity is shaped in an image-centric world.
"I.C.P. has always created cultural experiences that center on the social implications of photography," Cotton says. "The contemporary state of privacy is a key issue for us all—particularly in light of the way that our sense of self-identity is so strongly tied to our public, social media-driven visibility."
Now, get an inside look with curator Charlotte Cotton's picks of the 10 most daring images from the show!
"Bookchin presents three short films for which she corralled hundreds of vlog testimonies from strangers online about coming out or being laid off. She choreographs these voices into Testament, a narrative of people using the language of online culture. The one that really grabs me is Laid Off, showing people who have gotten onto their computers straight after being fired. You can feel their stress, but by the end of the piece, people are selling themselves, like, 'This isn't going to get me down.' We know this form of vlog, but the way Bookchin organizes the language with each testimony echoing the last, repeating the same motivational phrases—it's disarming."
"Rickard constructs this epic road trip through America made up of video clips found on YouTube. It's a dark world: He has harsh point of view about human beings and the implication of our behavior. It's also a provocation to look at what contemporary America is as he sequences together a distinct collective consciousness that's obsessed with crime, social injustice, and economic disparity."
"Yale Joel put a camera behind a two-way mirror at the Criterion Theater in Times Square and observed passersby looking at their reflection in this very public space. The work, which was originally published in Life magazine in 1946, is a tiny 10-by-8-inch print—we're trying to reanimate this vintage object in the context of now. It gets a second life, showing these personal moments circa the 1940s, and adds a layer of history to the exhibition, examining our public behavior through the ages."
"What I'm Looking For, a film that borders documentary and fiction, tells the story of strangers seeking intimacy in public spaces. The female narrator approaches people through an online dating site, looking for anyone 'who would like to be photographed in public revealing something of themselves.' It's a piece that's about looking at other people and how they represent themselves. You can feel the close encounter and exchange between the image maker and the subject—both the photographer's own motivations and the motivation of the people she represents."
"This piece is so funny—although serious as well. It uses footage from someone's private computer. The man hasn't realized that he's broadcasting himself dancing naked. It's framed in this way that you can see him mimicking with absolute abandon a performance on a larger screen. That's why it's called 'Pas de Deux.'"
"For this piece, Houck created custom film-editing and facial-recognition software, and applied it to Michelangelo Antonioni's classic 1966 film Blow-Up. The program hilariously finds faces in the carpet and the shrubbery in some of the scenes."
"Don McCullin was employed by Antonioni to make the photographs that sustain the narrative of Blow-Up, a film about a fashion photographer who thinks he may have inadvertently captured a murder. McCullin often employed Magnum photographers like Bruce Davidson, so there's even a little twist that the photographs for the film were made by these supreme photojournalists. These facsimiles are a nice juxtaposition with Houck's work."
"This is a series of black and white identification photos of Algerian women taken in 1960 during the Algerian war. Garanger was drafted into the French military, and, as a photographer, his job was to take these ID photos. The women were forced to de-veil, and while Garanger was conflicted at the order of making these photos, he also used a wider frame, pulling the camera out to show more than a traditional mug shot would. The women are so angry and defiant, but equally patient. It's a very powerful series."
"In a separate gallery, we're showing an analog carousel of slides from Phil Collins's "free fotolab" for which he invited people to submit undeveloped slide film to him. Participants got a processed print in exchange for granting Collins universal rights to the images. It's a timely reminder of what's been lost as we move into the digital era. Pictures of a father in an open casket, or a dad holding his baby for the first time—you see that preciousness of a roll of film, the finite moments."
"The crux of the exhibition is about the agency of self-representation, the idea that radical things happen when our image is circulated in the public. Frederick Douglass was the most photographed American in the 19th century, and he used his image to drive the abolitionist movement, to make people visualize black men as human beings. Vik Muniz reproduces historic images using materials like ketchup, dust, sugar, and chocolate syrup. For this photo, he made a drawing in ink of Frederick Douglass, who has the most remarkable hair and clothes. It was important that the material was ink because in the 19th century, ink was the only medium of dissemination. The piece is an outstanding representation of using self image to bring about actual social change."
To find out how to visit, see icp.org.