Located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, roughly halfway between the New Museum and the Museum at Eldridge Street , the International Center of Photography is a museum of visual culture that focuses on what it calls “concerned photography.” ICP (as the museum is nicknamed) regularly stages thought-provoking exhibitions of images that strive to change the world. These educational shows range from contemporary works that challenge our assumptions about the world around us to career retrospectives of acclaimed photographers.
International Center of Photography History
The International Center of Photography was founded in 1974 by photographer Cornell Capa, who established the museum in the memory of his brother, Robert Capa, a legendary photojournalist renowned for his work in war zones (and who died while on assignment in Vietnam). Cornell Capa saw the ICP as an institution dedicated to “concerned photography”—that is, photography which was socially conscious, politically engaged, and possessing the ability to influence people to make a better world.
In the approximately 50 years since its inception, ICP has occupied numerous brick-and-mortar locations throughout Manhattan. In that time, it has staged over 700 distinctive exhibitions and organized countless educational programs. ICP opened in its current location at 79 Essex Street in 2020.
What’s at the International Center of Photography
While the International Center of Photography is in possession of an impressive permanent collection, one that numbers over 200,000 pieces ranging from some of the earliest photographs ever taken to today’s most innovative, cutting-edge images, that archive is predominantly housed at Mana Contemporary, a separate facility located in Jersey City, New Jersey. If so interested, guests may make reservations to tour that site.
The International Center of Photography space on the Lower East Side focuses on presenting temporary exhibitions to the public. As a result, a visitor’s experience at ICP is going to be different each and every time depending on the nature of the current show. Recent exhibitions have been on such wide-ranging subjects as the visual history of hip-hop, parade spectators, life-size images, and the career of William Klein.
The International Center of Photography is home to a thoughtfully curated shop where you can pick up a fun souvenir for yourself or that perfect gift for a friend. Here you’ll find a quality selection of books, prints, posters, clothing, accessories, and miscellaneous ICP-branded items. There’s even a charming kids’ section with puzzles, sketchbooks, toy cameras, and more.
Next to the ICP shop you’ll encounter a small café. The menu here is small but excellent, with a focus on coffee, cappuccino, and tea. Water and seltzer are also available, but the real stars of the show are the pastries from Café d’Avignon, one of New York City’s artisanal bakeries. Blueberry scones, almond croissants, lemon cake: you name it, it’s hard to go wrong with whatever you pick.
Tips for Visiting the International Center of Photography
- The NYC Center of Photography is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass and NY Sightseeing Pass.
- The International Center of Photography uses timed-entry tickets for admission. Walk-ups are accepted, too, but when in doubt its best to purchase your tickets to the museum ahead of time.
- On Thursday nights, ICP offers pay-what-you-wish admission between the hours of 6:00pm and 9:00pm. The suggested donation price during this time window is $10.
- The International Center of Photography stages various public programs throughout the year. These occasional events can cover everything from film screenings to community days to panel discussions and beyond. Be sure to check out the ICP’s calendar on their official website for a full listing of events that’ll be happening when you’re planning to visit.
- Accessible audio guides are available here for each and every bit of text found in ICP’s exhibits. If this service could be of use to you, visit the museum’s website for more details.