Photography and Social Media Today

Jul 20, 2020

The International Center of Photography offers a forum for dialogue about the power of the image to bear witness. We understand that photography, journalism, and visual messaging—as well as the tools used to create—are forever changing landscapes with contexts that can shift at any given moment. We are constantly re-evaluating, and encouraging those around us to re-evaluate, what it means to take a photo, to make an image, to tell a story. 

Through our community, we have heard how the photographing of protests has raised concerns regarding ethics and documentation—specifically the issue of whether it is ethical to show identifying features of individuals publicly engaging in protest. As an organization committed to free expression and documentary practice, we have not required our students to censor their work. We provide an open and safe educational space for important dialogue around the ever-evolving issues in photography, and to provide our students with the best tools to approach their work with integrity.

ICP students, especially those in our One-Year Certificate Programs, are given an enormous amount of information relating to ethics within the landscapes of photography, journalism, and visual messaging. We encourage them to take this information and to find their own moral compass. As part of their learning experience, they actively contribute to our student-run accounts, confronting the ever-evolving landscape of social media and social posting. 

We recognize that due to advancements in facial recognition technology, the protection of protestor safety has emerged with urgency in the field of documentary practice. This July, ICP launched a free public program series titled Documenting History: Protest, Ethics and the Photograph that convenes stakeholders including photojournalists, editors, and thought leaders from multiple perspectives on ethical journalism. The goal of the series is to navigate the changing dynamics of imagemaking and protest photography.

We understand that a single image can illicit pride, trauma, or anything in between. And we understand that this interpretation lies with the viewer. At the International Center of Photography—an exhibiting, teaching, and collecting institution—we find value in this tension and the dialogue it prompts. We will not stop making images, but we will take this moment to deeply consider the content, subject matter, and metadata attached to the images we post on our digital platforms and social media outlets. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and will work to protect data that could be mined for creating more violence on Black lives. We will also, in turn, encourage our students to respond by considering how they will become not only imagemakers, but agents of change and empathic minds.

We will update this page as the conversation continues. We are listening and learning.

Further Reading

Originally posted June 5, 2020; Updated June 30, 2020