Photo Exhibit at the Seaport Museum Will Provide a Close-up Look at OWS

Photo by Adrian Kinloch

By Carl Glassman

Occupy Wall Street was a photographer’s dream. Historic yet carnivalesque, peaceful (mostly) yet adrenaline-pumping in its nearly daily dose of action, the Zuccotti Park encampment and the frequent demonstrations that sprang from it offered a smorgasbord of visual delights. Such variety was often missing in the published photos of the months-long protest, which predictably featured confrontations with police over the day-to-day (and night) life of the movement.

Indeed, there is a far more substantial and varied pictorial record of Occupy Wall Street than has been shown—until now.

Luckily, the South Street Seaport Museum is taking on the task.

Reopening on January 26 under the direction of the Museum of the City of New York, the Seaport Museum will show 150 photographs culled from some 4,000 images submitted by more than 200 photographers.

For a sampling, click here and go to the Tribeca Trib page where this post originated.

As one of the jurors who sorted through about 2,000 of those submissions (as well as a photojournalist who periodically covered the Occupation), I can testify to the wide range of visual possibilities presented by the protest and the impressive selection that awaits viewers. In fact, the show’s organizers are considering rotating some of the 150 pictures so that even more can be seen over the weeks and months that “Occupy Wall Street” is on display.

The show is just one of many installations that will fill the museum’s three floors and 16 galleries beginning this month. In what organizers are preferring to call an “open house” rather than a conventional and formal museum exhibition, there will be other installations of photography, as well as video, a “Made in New York” fashion and furniture show, and offerings from the collections of both the Seaport Museum and the Museum of the City of New York.

The Occupy Wall Street show, conceived just a few weeks after the raid on Zuccotti Park, is more akin to an ambitious photojournalistic exposition than standard museum fare. It’s a visual exploration that adds meaning to those recent events, says Sarah Henry, chief curator of the Museum of the City of New York.

“The photographs provide a window into the gestalt and the history of those two months,” notes Henry, who organized the show with Sean Corcoran, curator of photographs and prints. “You also see what the photographer’s eye can do to help you understand, as a viewer, what Occupy Wall Street is all about.”

As a juror, I found that for all the standout photos we selected, much of that understanding comes from the diversity—even the contradictions—that can be seen in the show. The young and the old, the chaos and the order, the individuality of protest and the facelessness of it. That, it seems, is the big picture that this very timely Occupy Wall Street exhibition will have to offer.

The Museum will be open from 10 AM to 6 PM Wednesday through Sunday starting January 26. Admission is $5 (children under 9 free). Check seany.org for more information.

Carl Glassman is the Editor and Co-Publisher of The Tribeca Trib.