Photos: Inside The New International Center of Photography At Essex Crossing

By Annie Todd

Share Article

The International Center of Photography (ICP) was founded by Cornell Capa, who in 1974 aimed to champion “concerned photography”—socially and politically minded images that can educate and change the world. The center is now opening its new 40,000-sq-ft location on the Lower East Side this weekend (on Saturday, January 25th), in the Essex Crossing fold. The three-floor museum space will offer four exhibitions to kick things off, from historic images of the LES to a deep-fake version of the 1979 film The Warriors.

Aside from these, visitors will also find a school within the building, where teens and adults inspired by what they’re seeing can learn photography as well. This effort to join the museum and school has taken nearly 20 years to achieve. “When I arrived at ICP six years ago, my goal was to build a building and put ICP back together and really create this center,” Mark Lubell, Executive Director of ICP, told Gothamist at a preview this week.

Here’s what you can expect to see if you visit during the center’s opening months:

Photographer Tyler Mitchell’s “I Can Make You Feel Good”

This 24-year-old Brooklyn-based photographer became a familiar name after his September 2018 Vogue cover of Beyoncé. Tyler Mitchell’s photo collection here delivers “a black utopia” through pastel shades and natural light. For the series, he took inspiration from his days scrolling through Tumblr, previously stating: “I would very often come across sensual, young, attractive white models running around being free and having so much fun – the kind of stuff Larry Clark and Ryan McGinley would make. I very seldom saw the same for black people in images – or at least in the photography I knew of then.”

Take a moment to lie down on the fake grass and watch his 12-minute film “Idylic Space” before walking through images on fabric hanging on a laundry line. “His work is less a counternarrative and it’s very much a declaration of joy,” Isolde Brielmaier, ICP’s Curator-at-Large, said. “Tyler likes to say he’s sort of ‘gut-punching’ in his optimism and I think we can all agree right now it’s a really significant important time for those sentiments.”

Running from January 25th – May 18th (more details here)

Make a cameo in The Warriors

iPads are mounted on the walls of the first, second and third floors where you can take a series of photos that will then be uploaded into The Warriors, a 1979 film set in a future New York where gans fight over territory in the five boroughs. People will have a chance to watch three scenes from the movie (including the iconic subway scene) while waiting to see which character they appear as. The photos will also guess your age, gender, ethnicity and keywords associated with your profile. According to the computer, I’m a 39-year old white female who’s an economic expert with a briefcase and sunhat. (I’m actually a 24-year old white female who’s not an economic expert nor do I own a briefcase.)

Running from January 25th – May 18th (more details here)

A Visual History Of Hip-Hop at Contact High

This collection brings the viewer on a “journey through nearly four decades of photography, documenting a movement that impacted music, politics, race relations, fashion, and the culture at large.” Comprised of nearly 150 works from 60 photographers (including Janette Beckman, Jamel Shabazz, and Gordon Parks), visitors can see outtakes from album art, such as A$AP Rocky’s LONG. LIVE. A$AP cover, classic photos of Queen Latifah, Biggie’s crown and the Dapper Dan jacket made for Rakim. “My biggest hope is that people actually think of this as a historic cultural movement,” curator Vikki Tobak said. “It really is such an all-American come-up story.”

Running from January 25th – May 18th, 2020 (more details here)

Visit The Old Lower East Side

For their exhibit, The Lower East Side: Selections from the I.C.P. Collection, the center draws from their expansive collection of images of the neighborhood, featuring works from Ilse Bing, Arnold Eagle, Otto Hagel, Lisette Model, Jacob Riis, Lee Sievan, Weegee, Dan Weiner, and Bill Witt, among others. “Many of the social documentarians and street photographers of the 1930s and 1940s were first-generation Americans born on the Lower East Side,” ICP notes, and they each “created sensitive and nuanced portraits of their neighbors and shared environment.”

Running from January 25th – May 18th (more details here)

ICP is located at 79 Essex Street. They are open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. Opening day (1/25) will be free for everyone. Otherwise, tickets cost $16 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and is free for people under 18.