Eminent Domain: Contemporary Photography and the City

Exhibition at the New York Public Library through August 29.

So my last few posts, collectively, were starting to look a bit Comic-Con-esque. That might be kind of inevitable, given summer fare, and it’s not there’s like there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but … there’s more to life. I felt like writing about something that didn’t involve superheros or aliens and whatnot, so at lunchtime I walked down to the public library to check out this exhibit, which has been stuck on my well-intentioned meaning-to-go list for a while.

And as is often the case with stuff on that list, I enjoyed it tremendously once I actually got around to going. The title (alluding to the contentious issue of the government seizing private property for public use or, even more controversially, for private development) is misleading because the exhibit isn’t overtly political and certainly doesn’t deal with that subject directly. The point of the name is to get at the ways in which public and private spaces overlap in urban areas, and though that theme shows up in the exhibit in some artists’ work more than others’, I see where the curators were going with the idea, and it’s interesting.

But I have to admit, too, that I wasn’t thinking much about eminent domain—on either a literal or a metaphoric level—as I wandered through the exhibit. The photographs that really captured me were so arresting, so aesthetically striking and evocative, that I found myself enraptured in enjoying them on that level. These were the kind of photos that don’t find beauty so much as create it, and that, I think, is rare and special.