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Looking at Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees
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Looking at Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy

Over the weekend I took the train up to the Museum of the City of New York to view Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy. On display was a curated display of photos taken around the time of Superstorm Sandy a year ago. What drew me to see the photos aside from the nature of the subject was that the photos were both taken by professionals and others, predominantly shared on social media. As you’ll notice below all the images I embedded were from Instagram, most tagged with #risingwaters.

During the storm I was relatively fortunate in that I did not loose power in my apartment and where I work was able to relocate until power came back. A lot of people I knew weren’t so fortunate. It wouldn’t be until days or weeks later until they would be able to see media images of the devastation. They didn’t have access to power to see images on TV and online. While the display at the Museum of the City of New York doesn’t even start to scratch the surface of the destruction and hardship people went through, it does bring attention to moments shared on social media that would have disappeared quickly from being viewed in it’s original format. Let me explain what I mean by this. I can’t remember the exact details but in the show it mentioned how fast images per second were tagged and attributed to Sandy was. It was a lot by any calculation, more so than any person could view. By the time someone shot something, posted it and hit refresh, more images were being uploaded in the same cycle. Taking a look back through the context of time now allows for a different experience from the realtime flow.

There’s no going back to the days of only a couple services that display news images. Images taken by people on the scene of “news” is the standard, not the exception. Trying to break down the media shift of a show like Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy is helpful for future events. A couple things to consider for future shows is how to get participants to share their images (and experiences), deciding what to display and how to display it both in analog and digital.

More info:
Rising Waters: Photographs of Sandy
October 29, 2013 – March 2, 2014

Presented to mark the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Rising Waters draws on work submitted by over a thousand photographers, both professional and amateur, who responded to an open call for images in the storm’s wake. The juried exhibition features striking before-and-after images of the hurricane’s impact on the New York region, including preparations, the storm’s destructive effects, and the ongoing rebuilding efforts.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the International Center of Photography.

http://www.mcny.org/exhibition/rising-waters

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