Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography And The City

by MICAH TRIPPE · July 9, 2008

Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City, NYC ArtLast summer's attempted legislation that would have required anyone taking photos in New York City to obtain a $1 permit and to then purchase $1,000,000 in liability insurance met with large swells of public outcry, and was thankfully dismissed.

One year later, the New York Public Library has launched a provocative and fascinating (and free!) exhibit entitled Eminent Domain:Contemporary Photography and the City that offers a glimpse into contemporary photographers' practice here in the city, as well as the shifting boundaries between public and private within the city.

In addition, New York-born mixed media artist Glenn Ligon provides written meditations on each and every place he has lived during his life in New York. Ligon concludes his last entry, each of which adorns the walls of the exhibit between photographs, with the thought that,

"like many New Yorkers, I lack imagination, and have never considered living anywhere else. For to live in New York is to have lived everywhere."

It's a provocative statement, but the various works on display here, from portraits of the Lower East Side over the last ten years during its gentrification, to photographs of individual train cars along elevated portions of the New York Subway, offer a convincing argument in Ligon's defense. New York is a city that is forever changing, and photographs provide a moment in which to stop and say,

"yes, I remember that.  That is how it was."

Whether you are new to the city or were born and bred here, this show leaves much to be pondered, savored and celebrated.