Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Susan Meiselas at the ICP

The International Center of Photography (ICP) is a world-renowned museum for professional photographers from all over the world. For years it has displayed some of the most creative documentary as well as artistic images taken by experienced photographers. This year, from September 19th until January 4th, 2009, Susan Meiselas is showcasing her work at the ICP. Her work in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution, documentary of the people of Kurdistan, and her somewhat interesting take on “Carnival Strippers”, really show Meiselas’s talent and passion for the art of photography, as well as a longing to reveal the truths of our world.
Each of Meiselas’s three exhibits on display at the ICP shows her expertise in the field. Looking at “Nicaragua”, a project she worked on from 1974 to 2004, one can see not only the beauty of the photographs themselves, but the cruelty and ruin of the Nicaraguan government during the Sandinista Revolution. Meiselas went to Nicaragua to cover the political conflicts in Central America during the 1970s and 1980s. She tried to depict the issues of nationalism and identity as well as human rights issues. This project has a big impact on media and caused a lot of controversy. In this particular project, Meiselas used color as her most important technique. Each photograph is very clear and focused, and the colors are very vivid. For example, in the image titles, “Car of a Samoza Informer Burning in Managua, Nicaragua”, we see a close-up of a burning van. The flames are orange, the charred vehicle is a deep black, and the sky is a contrasting blue. Color had a stunning effect in this set of images and helped put a realistic and gloomy perspective on a horrifying time in Nicaragua’s history.
Meiselas showed her courageous and ambitious personality once more when she entered Iraq after the first Gulf War to document a group of people known as the Kurds. At the ICP, her project titled “Kurdistan” shows her attempt to reveal this group called the Kurds. After World War I, the Middle East was divided up into states and the Kurds were left without a homeland. To this day, they are spread out among the different Middle Eastern countries. Meiselas displays black and white as well as color photos of the families of these people, with real writing on them. Viewers can also watch a short film to learn more about the Kurds. Through uncovering old photographs, and masterfully taking new ones, Meiselas continues her mission of exposing human atrocities and the lack of human rights around the world.
Last but not least, in a completely separated conch-shaped room of the museum, we come across Meiselas’s “Carnival Strippers”. She worked on this project from 1972 to 1976. All of these images are in black and white, and this portion of her exhibit is definitely juxtaposition to the previous projects on display. Coming into this room after a somewhat depressing viewing of the atrocities in Nicaragua and Kurdistan, one sees a somewhat dull collection of strippers. Nonetheless, these pictures still show the work of a distinguished professional.
Located a block away from Times Square, the center of New York City, the International Center of Photography is definitely a venue that you should visit. It houses several exhibits of the works of some of the most acclaimed photographers. Whether you wish to view some of Susan Meiselas’s life’s exquisite works, or check out the work of other artists, the ICP is definitely an experience to be enjoyed.