Archiving a Pandemic Via Instagram

Corona virus

At one point it was dealing with more coronavirus cases than any other single country outside the US. Now, a New York photography museum is calling out for images of the pandemic from the public.

The International Center of Photography (ICP), based in its brand-new premises at Essex Crossing on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, is creating a virtual archive of the pandemic. And, by the everyday conversational magic that is social media, encouraging others to share them.

Work welcome from both pros and amateurs

The gallery welcomes images from photographers – both professional and amateur – on its Instagram page via the hashtag #ICPConcerned. It is then the job of five curators to sift through the thousands of images they have already received – a handful of which are posted on the CIPs Instagram account every day. 

Known for its historic archive which includes images of wars, disasters and social movements, the ICP has been keeping visual records since its formation back in 1974. At the time its founder Cornell Capa introduced the phrase “concerned photographer,” as someone who came up with “images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism.” Capa was the brother of distinguished photo-journalist Robert Capa who went on to make stunning visual accounts of the Spanish Civil War.

How do you photograph an invisible attack?

The ICP’s current executive director Mark Lubell compared archiving the September 11th attacks to the coronavirus pandemic. He said it was much easier to photograph the terrorist attacks. By this he meant there was a physical aftermath to see. With the coronavirus, the ‘attack’ is invisible, as a result, the vast majority of the images they have received relate to people and interconnectedness. Lubell describes this as ‘a humanitarian response.’

To date those images have included deserted streets, the interior of an empty subway car, a couple of dogs in a misty park and two children with their faces pressed up against a window.

Lubell says it was the intention for the ICP itself to make a connection with this project. 

“As the crisis continues, the images will reflect different phases of what we’re all experiencing,” he explained. “Looking at it in real time reflects a sense of where we are at this moment.”

The ICP only moved to its new four-storey, 40,000-square-foot space towards the end of January this year. Prior to that it was located Mid-town. 

How to submit your images 

It is possible for the public to share images using the hashtag #ICPConcerned on Instagram. Those without an Instagram account can email at socialmedia@icp.org. Single images, photo sequences, image-text work, video and audio submissions are all accepted for the project.

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