Take a Peek Inside the International Center for Photography’s New Home

The Center’s newest exhibition explores what it means to be constantly in front of the lens

Inside is a library, exhibition space and space for classes about the art of photography. Saul Metnick
Jill Magid, Trust (video still), from Evidence Locker, 2004. Jill Magid
John Houck, Portrait Landscape (video still), 2015. John Houck
The new International Center for Photography Museum is located in New York's bustling Bowery. Saul Metnick
Natalie Bookchin, My Meds (Testament series), 2009. Natalie Bookchin
Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1979. Cindy Sherman, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures

Chances are that you’ve taken a photo today—more than 300 million people use their Instagram account once a day, the company found earlier this month, and more than five billion photos have been uploaded to the photo-sharing and storage service Flickr during the site’s 12-year lifetime. The best way to appreciate the staggering impact photography has on the world is often to get out from behind the lens and look at some great photographs. You can do that at the International Center for Photography in New York, which recently debuted its new space at 250 Bowery.

The ICP bills itself as “the world’s leading institution dedicated to photography and visual culture,” and its new digs underline that commitment. The new museum space features an in-house library, weekly poster exhibits covered with new photography and plenty of exhibitions, lessons and outreach programs.

Public, Private, Secret is the new museum’s first exhibition, and it faces the mysteries of modern photography head-on. According to the museum’s website, it explores “the concept of privacy in today’s society and studies how contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility.” It does so with the help of photos from artists like Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, but it doesn’t stop there. Inside the exhibition are also streaming social media photos—testaments to a selfie-obsessed era that makes everything private public and vice-versa.

As Time Out New York’s Howard Halle notes, the ICP’s new home in the ever-more-gentrified Bowery district is part of a larger trend. In recent years, the vintage Lower Manhattan neighborhood, which author Luc Sante called “the ancestral home of American popular culture,” has become a prime target for nightclubs, galleries and high-dollar real estate deals.

That hasn’t been embraced by everyone: The place once known as the home of Skid Row and struggling artists now faces complaints that it’s being ruined by “iPhone toting hipsters.” But the ICP’s presence in the Bowery is a reminder that some of those new faces could change the course of photography with the very phones critics mock. 

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