In many ways, the Lower East Side is both quintessentially American and uniquely New York. Always changing, it has been one of the most denselypopulated, multiethnic, and modern places in the country.
While late nineteenth-century social reformers attempted to show middle- and upper-class New Yorkers “how the other half lives,” later photographers had a different, and often more personal, relationship with the neighborhood. In fact, many of the social documenatrians and street photographers of the 1930s and 1940s were first-generation Americans born on the Lower East Side, who created sensitive and nuanced portraits of their neighbors and shared environment.
This exhibition, which primarily draws from ICP’s rich holdings of mid-twentieth-century works, examines the role images play in creating narratives about this first port of entry for generations of immigrants.
As a newcomer to the neighborhood, ICP is committed to engaging with the many visual histories of the dynamic place that has been seen as ripe for reform and reinvention for more than a hundred years.
“Lower East Side: Selections from the ICP Collection” features vintage photos of the Lower East Side’s streets and people going back decades and into the 19th century. The exhibit was a chance to connect and engage ICP with its new location, according to Erin Barnett, ICP’s director of exhibitions and collections.
“Many of the social documentarians and street photographers of the 1930s and 1940s were first-generation Americans born on the Lower East Side,” said Barnett, “who created sensitive and nuanced portraits of their neighbors and shared environment.”
The International Center of Photography (ICP) has just moved to its new Lower East Side home at Essex Crossing at the start of 2020. At 79 Essex Street this location houses ICP’s museum and school, reuniting them for the first time in decades. ICP was founded in 1974 on the Upper East Side, and over the years has had locations in Midtown, New Jersey, and on the Bowery in Lower Manhattan. Its new location will have a free Opening Community Day on January 25 of each year.
Along with exhibitions, the new Center includes educational programs for people of all ages, along with media labs and shooting studios in the 40,000 square foot space that spans several floors. The building is part of the newly opened Essex Crossing mixed-use development, which has 1.65 million square feet of space across nine sites in the area.
Lower East Side: Selections from the ICP Collection
International Center for Photography
through Summer 2020
International Center for Photography website
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