International Center of Photography Museum Opens at New Space

International Center of Photography Museum Opens at New Space

June 23, 2016 is a big day for the International Center of Photography (ICP), a leading institution that focuses on photography and visual culture. Not only is the ICP opening in a new museum space at 250 Bowery, but it is premiering a culturally relevant and timely exhibit, “Public, Private, Secret.” This display and series of events delve into privacy and its evolution as we move further into an Internet-fueled society in which an increasing number of people are posting just about anything and everything about themselves online.

Collage of webcams and vlogs. (©Natalie Bookchin)


The museum itself purposefully lacks privacy. The front of this street-level space is 90 feet of glass that allows passersby the opportunity to see inside. As you enter through the front door, there is a printed message on the ground that reads “By entering this area, you consent to being photographed, filmed, and/or otherwise recorded, and surrender the rights to the use of such material throughout the universe in perpetuity.” And like all those online Terms of Agreement pages that one quickly scrolls through just to click “okay,” I thought nothing of it.

But then I got to walk through the “Public, Private, Secret” exhibit… and it really put into perspective just how much people are willing to publicly share what used to be considered extremely personal aspects of their lives. I caught part of a collage of videos of people telling the Internet about how they were fired from their jobs. I saw photos of couples who willingly allowed themselves to be photographed while having sex and a video of someone flipping through an album of Kim Kardashian's social media photos.

Also displayed are real-time images and videos streaming from social media sites like Twitter. Each monitor is curated to search different queries and keywords and there is this constant feed of information and photos that people are putting online for the masses to see.

While I enjoyed seeing the variety of media showcasing people knowingly giving up their privacy, I thought there was something especially interesting to think about with the photographs that were on display. There were different series of pictures throughout the exhibit. I thought it was neat to see photos taken by Andy Warhol (since most people are familiar with his pop art) as well as several tiny portraits of Sojourner Truth. These subjects knew they were getting their pictures taken and there was a recognized level of consent. But then there were a series of mug shots and I thought how those were also posed portraits, but they were taken out of necessity as opposed to vanity, and were used as a means to share incriminating information instead of being a moment of celebration or positive achievement.

Curator-in-Residence Charlotte Cotton spoke how the museum as well as its “Public, Private, Secret” exhibit are meant to spark conversation. Photography has grown from something people did on occasion to document important happenings to something people can do in as much time as it takes to whip a phone out of a pocket and press a button. With this much accessibility to recording video and taking still images in conjunction with how easy it is to share media across multiple social media platforms almost instantly… well, it’s a lot to take in and process. You’re going to need to go check out the exhibit so I have someone to talk to about it! 

In addition to the galleries, ICP will host a series of workshops about privacy in the digital age, have book launches and reading groups, have a hypnotist conduct a session, among other informational events and activities.

“Public, Private, Secret” is on display from June 23, 2016 through January 8, 2017, Tu-Su from 10:00 am-6:00 pm, with extended hours on Thursday evenings to 9:00. $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for students—children 14 and under, accompanied by an adult, can enter for free. On Thursday evenings from 7:00-9:00, pay what you wish.

There are 150 works from 50 artists on display. For more information on programming, visit ICP’s website here.

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