While Hurricane Sandy was battering New York and during its long, exhausting aftermath, photos of the storm and its effects proliferated everywhere. Pictures of waist-level water, of wrecked houses, of uprooted boardwalks, of darkness, of people charging their cellphones wherever possible filled social media, blogs, and video news reports. The superstorm was one in an increasing line of news events that the world has witnessed and understood pictorially.
So it makes sense that the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) is planning an exhibition of photographs from Sandy for the one-year anniversary of the storm. And importantly, the organizers aren’t just interested in professional pictures; they want submissions from anyone and everyone with images to share. The museum issued an open call earlier this year and has already received some 7,800 photos from more than 650 photographers. They want even more, though, so they’ve extended the submission deadline to August 1. Send in your pictures!
According to the museum, the institution is particularly interested in “images depicting the stages of preparation, destruction and rebuilding” in New York, as well as those that depict the same subject before and after the storm, “highlighting the dramatic effect.” Novices, amateurs, and professionals are all invited to submit to the show, which will be juried by a group of photography curators and journalists; guidelines say that selected prints may be considered for acquisition into the museum’s permanent collection.
An exhibition like this risks ending up an overcrowded mess, but it also has the potential to be a moving portrait of a city reeling and recovering from crisis. In terms of the latter, Here Is New York comes to mind, a project for which a group of four photography and art professionals opened a storefront gallery a week after September 11. They invited everyone to bring in their photos of the attacks and ended up with more than 5,000 images, all of them hung in a massive display of simultaneous dissonance and solidarity.
In a piece about 9/11 and Here Is New York, cultural critic Susie Linfield wrote, “Never before had the identities of New Yorkers as individuals fused so intimately, and so tenderly, with the place itself: the city was — we were — wounded, fearful, fearless, furious, proud. The city’s ‘body politic’ became literal.” This describes, to me, how New York felt and reacted to Hurricane Sandy, too. Here’s hoping MCNY can translate that tumultuous energy into something eloquent.