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Since 1985, the International Center of Photography has recognized outstanding achievements in photography with its prestigious Infinity Awards. The awards ceremony is also ICP’s primary fundraising benefit, with its revenues assisting the center's various programs.

Harbers Studios commissioned MediaStorm, on behalf of ICP, to create a short film about each of the recipients to screen at the awards ceremony and to display online. The films pay tribute to the contributions of each artist to the craft and field of photography and demonstrate ICP's commitment to them.

This year’s winners for “Critical Writing and Research” are Michael Famighetti and Sarah Lewis, for their collaboration on Aperture magazine’s landmark issue Vision & Justice, which explores how photography has been weaponized to both denigrate and celebrate African American life. Inspired by the words and actions of Frederick Douglass, this publication weaves together the works of poets, photographers, filmmakers and other artists who have used their art form to combat the image war waged against African Americans in this country. They honor the work of African American photographers, like Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Jamel Shabazz, and Deborah Willis, who turned the lens to African American families at a time when the media was filled instead with African American caricatures. This film pays homage to a seminal work in the history of American photography, one that recognizes ‘photography as a project of American citizenship’.

Client: Harbers Studios, International Center of Photography
Published: April 24, 2017

The Challenge
The story of Vision and Justice is manifold. The edition itself discusses a wide range of issues, from Frederick Douglass’ photographic legend and its implications, to contemporary cinema and representational justice. Inherent in this conversation is both what has been done to highlight African American life through photography, and what has been done to denigrate it. The story is also about what has, and has not, been done by cultural institutions, like Aperture, to incorporate the works of African American photographers and visual artists. And lastly, there’s the story of how this discussion and collaboration affected Aperture. The challenge was to incorporate all these important elements of the story without losing focus of the issue’s central focus–the link between pictures and progress in American culture.

The Solution
The approach we took was to begin and end the film by examining how Aperture magazine changed under Sarah Lewis’ influence and the contributors to Vision & Justice. That discussion frames a deep dive into the photography, theory, and history mentioned on the pages of the magazine. In the end, we realized that the two issues were inextricably linked–how the major cultural institutions respond to photography by, and depicting, African Americans, mirrors its course through history. Delivering both perspectives gives a macro and micro view of this edition, and a better sense of just how important the magazine has been for its viewers, and for Aperture magazine.

The Results
The film premiered on April 24, 2017 at the ICP Infinity Awards Gala in Chelsea Piers, New York City. The film was a special feature of the evening, and a critical fundraising tool.

About the Client
This film was a collaboration with Harbers Studio and the International Center of Photography.

Harbers Studios turbocharges the efforts of charitable entrepreneurs by helping them tell their stories. Our goal is to help them articulate and share the value of the work they do so they can inspire others to help them do it. Working with some of the best filmmaking talent in the world, Harbers Studios creates compelling visual narratives that enhance the endeavors of organizations working to make the world a better place.

The International Center of Photography (ICP) is the world’s leading institution dedicated to the practice and understanding of photography and the reproduced image in all its forms. Through exhibitions, educational programs, and community outreach, ICP offers an open forum for dialogue about the role images play in our culture. Since ICP’s founding, they have presented more than 500 exhibitions and offered thousands of classes, providing instruction at every level. ICP is a center where photographers and artists, students and scholars can create and interpret the world of the image within our comprehensive educational facilities and archive.

Individual Films

After spending a year on a failed photographic project in China, Michael Christopher Brown needed a change. A year later, he was recovering from a near fatal injury, and the wounds of a loss that shook the photography community to its core. Watch it now.

“Vision & Justice” explores how photography has been weaponized to both denigrate and celebrate African American life. This publication honors the works of African American artists who seek to reframe the visual narrative. Watch it now.

In his retelling of the Indian epic the Ramayana, Vasantha Yogananthan explores the space between truth and fiction, merging documentary and fine art photography to create a story about how the myth impacts Indian society today. Watch it now.

By following the seemingly mundane bureaucratic paper trail of the War on Terror, Photographer Edmund Clark and investigator Crofton Black uncover secrets the government would rather keep hidden. Watch it now.

For Freedoms is the first artist-run Super PAC. The PAC was founded by photographers and artists to engage in the political process and offer more complex messages. Watch it now.

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