The center of the city's photography world can be found, for now, in a sleek new building in The Bowery. The International Center of Photography hosts dozens of classes and lectures every month, exploring all aspects of traditional an modern photography. But for those not inclined to practice the photographic arts themselves, the Center also hosts a series of rotating exhibits in its spacious galleries (and further afield on satellite campuses). ICP's exhibitions tend to be more accessible than other photographic collections since the museum makes little distinction between snapshots and fine art. Its concern is less about how professionally and artistically a moment was captured and more about the story the picture tells.
There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.
What You Will See
There is not much in terms of a permanent collection on display at the Center. Instead, the museum hosts several exhibits concurrently, usually either retrospectives of established international photographers or revisiting historical periods relevant to contemporary social issues. Recent exhibitions have revisited the internment of Japanese-Americans, the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, Cuba's post-revolution experience, and the rise and fall of Apartheid. While the exhibition schedule is likely to slow somewhat as the museum prepares to move to Essex's Crossing, keep an eye on the calendar for some of the best photography in the city.
Why You Should Go
Many of the larger museums in the city have departments dedicated to photography--most notably the Met and the MoMA. But these museums prioritizes photographs as fine art. ICP, by contrast, is devoted to the study of photography in all of its manifestations--as its extensive offerings of classes, tours, and lectures show. The exhibits hosted here look at photography not as a branch of art, but rather as its own category of human creativity. The museum gives equal standing to fine art, photojournalism, tourist snapshots, and selfies. If it can be captured through a lens, it belongs at ICP. Watch the calendar and plan on returning often--especially after its new home opens next year.
Like other museums and cultural institutions around the city, early in the pandemic, ICP sent out a call for submissions capturing this unique moment in time. Many thousands of contemporary photographs were submitted to #ICPConcerned. This exhibit has selected one thousand of those images, from over 60 different countries, for display in their main gallery space.
George Georgiou is a freelance contemporary photographer and photojournalist. While is best-known works focus on eastern Europe, Turkey, and former Soviet states, in 2016 he set out across the United States. Between January and November Georgiou traveled through fourteen states, visiting twenty-six different local parades. But the subject of his photographs were not the floats and marching bands, but rather the groups of spectators lining the route. An interesting look at the state of contemporary America.
Similar to its open call for submissions around the globe in #ICPConcerned, the center also commissioned COVID-specific works from five New York-based photographers. Each photographer approached the project with a different lens, resulting in a collection of contemporary photographs ranging from street photography to image-text storytelling. This is one of the best COVID-based exhibitions in the city.
The Brooklyn-based photographer Tyler Mitchell has logged remarkable achievements in his short career. While he has reached early heights of success, photographing celebrities and landing the cover of Vogue, he continues to photograph daily experiences in his neighborhood. This solo exhibition at ICP documents Mitchell's exploration of what he calls a "visualiz[ation of] what a Block utopia looks like." Enjoy his "clothesline" installation, or lay back (literally) and watch one of his short films.