The Power of Protest Photography

A new exhibition captures the rallies, riots, marches, and demonstrations that erupted in New York City between 1980 and 2000. Entitled “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” the current show at the Bronx Documentary Center explores residents’ reactions to two decades of swift economic and demographic change. The era was consumed by issues of police brutality, gentrification, AIDS, gay and lesbian rights, reproductive rights, U.S. foreign policy and military actions, and education and labor relations.

“While this cohort of photographers had made very powerful photographs of protests in New York City during these tumultuous decades, because they were working independently and before the advent of the internet and social media, much of their work had never been seen,” Tamar Carroll, co-curator of the show, said. Many of the protesters’ concerns are still making headlines today, Carroll added, and the inauguration of Donald Trump—and the opposition he has inspired—have made imagery of civic unrest more relevant than ever before. “Photographing these events was crucial for the historical record,” co-curator Meg Handler added.

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