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Photography exhibition examines visual culture of political demonstrations in the 1960s
Fred W. McDarrah, American, 1925–2007, for The Village Voice, Demonstrators at the Women’s Strike for Equality, New York City, August 26, 1970. Gelatin silver print. Gift of the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah. © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah / Getty Images.

PRINCETON, NJ.- The civil rights movement and the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam came to a head in the 1960s, inspiring protests across the country. Fifty years after the watershed events of 1968, Picturing Protest examines the visual framing of political demonstrations around the country and on Princeton’s campus. At a time when the coverage and circulation of news media were rapidly expanding, many of these photographs became icons of social struggle, fundamentally changing the ways people have visualized the United States ever since. Drawn from Princeton University collections, the images on view compel us to contemplate the capacity of protest, and of art, to imagine, interpret and cultivate change.

Picturing Protest is curated by Juliana Dweck, Mellon Curator of Academic Engagement at the Princeton University Art Museum. It is on view at the Museum from May 26 through Oct. 14, 2018.

“The 1960s saw the voices of protest rise and cascade around the country,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, class of 1976, director. “Through this exhibition, the Museum investigates the visual culture of protest 50 years on with an eye towards better understanding the power of photography as a medium for both documenting protest and sometimes participating in it.”

Picturing Protest presents some 35 works – photographs, video and prints – by a wide range of artists, including both photojournalists and activists acting as photographers. The exhibition also features archival photographs from Princeton University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library in a section devoted to student anti-war demonstrations on Princeton’s campus.

The images in the exhibition document protests from the civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, feminist and gay rights movements from 1960 to 1970. Among the charged scenes are demonstrators in conflict with police in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 by Charles Moore; a student vigil at Princeton following the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968; Gordon Parks’s photograph of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which appeared in Life magazine; Fred McDarrah’s images of supporters of the women’s liberation movement from 1970; and John Filo’s searing images of a student protester slain on the Kent State University campus in 1970.

In addition to riveting examples of photojournalism from the era, well-known artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Hamilton re-present images of protest through collage, film and printmaking to comment on the ways that the media was conditioning the public’s understanding of violence, power and race.

A concurrent installation at the Princeton University Art Museum, Photography and Belonging, explores issues of migration, inclusion and exclusion, with special attention to the work of three photographers: Lewis Hine's images of early 20th-century immigrants in New York; Roman Vishniac's portrayal of European Jewish communities in the years before the Holocaust; and Fazal Sheikh's collaborative portraits of displaced persons in recent decades.

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