Tisch gallery celebrates 30 year anniversary of photography department

Along the walls of the lobby and on the eighth floor of 721 Broadway hang 90 works of varying media and subject matter that represent the diversity of work produced by the Department of Photography and Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts over the last 30 years.

The works, created by NYU faculty, students and alumni, are compiled into an exhibit called “DPI@30: Act vs. React.” The collection celebrates the 30th anniversary of the department’s founding and looks back on shifts in the photo industry since the department was founded.

“The purpose of this exhibition is to explore ideas that have shaped photography and new media arts since the department’s founding,” said Deborah Willis, chair of the department.

The works displayed range from black-and-white and color photography to mixed media pieces, videos and tapestries. The subjects captured over the last three decades give visitors a look into how photography, learning photography and even society have changed over that time.

“This show gives a visual voice to 30 years of lens-based imagery explored by a number of photographers and artists, resulting from our commitment to personal, political and cultural expressions,” Willis said.

The show highlights the importance of NYU’s Department of Photography and Imaging to both the world of photography and to the students hoping to become a part of the  dynamic sphere.

“The photography department is significant because it helped many now-successful photographers get their start and was the first viable MFA degree program in Manhattan,” said professor emerita Elaine Mayes, who originally joined the department in 1983. She has been retired for 11 years, but her picture in the show depicts a home impacted by Hurricane Irene, which is especially pertinent in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Another standout piece is a photograph by Tarek Al-Ghoussein, professor of Visual Arts at NYU Abu Dhabi. The image features a solitary figure standing against a rather plain setting. It serves to explore the theme of identity and the relationship between subject and space. The photograph is one of Al-Ghoussein’s many works of art that employs his desert home as a way to explore themes of identity and time and space.

“I was impressed with the depth and breadth of the work in the exhibition,” Al Ghoussein said. “Tisch was and clearly remains a very strong program. To maintain this for 30 years is a testament to the dedication of those involved.”

“DPI@30: Act vs. React” is on display in the Gulf + Western Gallery on the eighth floor at 721 Broadway. It is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays through Nov. 17.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 12 print edition. Alexandra Connolly is a staff writer. Email her at features@nyunews.com. 

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