Smithsonian Photography Initiative

Click!click! photography changes everything is a collection of essays and stories by invited contributors and visitors like you discussing how photography shapes our culture and our lives. Organized by the Smithsonian Photography Initiative (SPI) as a series of integrated programs, click! photography changes everything invites the public to consider ways in which photography enables us to see, experience, and interact with the world.

This exhibit hall area features selections from click! photography changes everything that illustrate the powerful role played by photography in identifying, documenting and solving problems. Check out the stories below — which are organized by the same four themes of this online conference — and share your own story about how a photograph helped address a real-world challenge.

A video introduction to click! photography changes everything:

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe

DEVORKINPhotography Changes the Technology and Collection of Astronomical Data — David H. DeVorkin, Smithsonian curator of the history of astronomy, revisits Dr. Richard Tousey’s historic 1946 attempt to retrieve scientific data from space.

Fazio GiovanniPhotography Changes What We Can See in the Universe — Giovanni G. Fazio, senior physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, explains how infrared photography enables us to see aspects of the past, present, and future of the universe.

Steven TurnerPhotography Changes Our Understanding of Light — Steve Turner, Smithsonian curator of physical sciences, reflects on the ways the earliest attempts to photograph light itself and the use of photographic images in scientific discourse.

Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet

Photography Changes What We See:
Photography allows us to see what the human eye cannot, what lies outside our daily experience, and determines what we choose to show to each other. Images and commentaries explore subjects that include changing photographic technologies, journalism, censorship, perception, surveillance, time, and motion. In this video, Jonathan Coddington, curator at the National Museum of Natural History, talks about how photography has changed the study of spiders.

Photography Changes Where We Go:
Photography enables us to see beyond the boundaries of everyday life in ways that were once unimaginable. Images and commentaries address subjects such as aerospace, exploration, geology, medical imaging, military planning, mining, oceanography, tourism, travel, transportation, and virtual reality.  Lisa Stevens, curator or primates and pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo, reflects further on this theme and describes how photography documents animal behavior that is not seen very often seen:

SubhankarPhotography Changes Our Awareness of Global Issues and Responsibilities — Subhankar Banerjee, photographer, educator, and activist, uses photography to raise awareness about human rights and land conservation issues in the Arctic.

Stewart BrandPhotography Changes Our Relationship to the Our Planet — Stewart Brand, founder, editor, and publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, recounts how the first photograph of the earth, taken from space, sparked environmental awareness and ultimately activism.

Jeff WilliamsPhotography Changes Our Knowledge of New Species — Jeff Williams, collections manager in the Smithsonian Division of Fishes, explains how digital photography facilitates the identification of new species of fish and increases understanding of biodiversity.

Valuing World Cultures

Elizabeth EdwardsPhotography Changes What We See, Depending on Who’s Looking – Elizabeth Edwards, visual anthropologist and historian, shows how the meaning and authority of photographs change, depending on how they are used and who they are seen by.

Haidy GeismarPhotography Changes Who Gets to See Images of Us – Haidy Geismar, assistant professor of anthropology and museum studies at New York University, reminds us that in some cultures being pictured creates problems.

Steve HoffenbergPhotography Changes and Democratizes Visual Expression – Steve Hoffenberg, director of consumer imaging research for Lyra Research Inc., tracks the startling growth in the number of images and image makers, worldwide.

Preminda JacobPhotography Changes the Movies we Choose to See – Preminda Jacob, associate professor of art history and theory at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, looks at how monumental, hand-painted billboards in India represent a historic intersection of photography, painting, and the movies.

Understanding the American Experience

Photography is central to understanding who we are and how we portray ourselves and those around us. Here you’ll find stories about portraits and other pictures that create or shape identities, define our civil rights, or declare our patriotism. In this video, Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, talks about how photography provides a way of learning about the African American experience that is not documented in any other way.

Kiku AdattoPhotography Changes the Ways Political Messages are Packaged – Kiku Adatto, author of Picture Perfect: Life in the Age of the Photo Op, tracks how and why politicians carefully stage photographic images.

Maurice BergerPhotography Changes the Struggle for Racial Justice – Maurice Berger, cultural historian and curator, describes how the power of photographic images was used to shape, and then forward, the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

David FriendPhotography Changes How We Experience History – David Friend, Vanity Fair’s editor of creative development, looks at photography’s central role in communicating and remembering the events of 9/11.

Edwin SchupmanPhotography Changes the Ways Cultural Groups are Represented and Perceived – Edwin Schupman, citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and an educator at the National Museum of the American Indian, looks at how historical photographs can reflect cultural stereotypes rather than complex truths.

Bonnie YochelsonPhotography Changes our Awareness of Poverty – Bonnie Yochelson, art historian and curator, describes how Jacob Riis’ photographs of the poor in New York City at the turn of the 20th century made public what most audiences preferred not to see.

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