30 Years of Innovation with MFA Photo, Video, & Related Media

SVA's MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, marking three decades of innovation in art, technology and activism. According to chair Charles Traub, who has spearheaded the department since its inception, social progress has always been an unofficial mission and conceptual backbone of the program.

From its early transition to digital processes to its global outreach in the wake of natural and geopolitical disasters, the department's history mirrors the impact of photographic imaging on the social body and invites image-makers from diverse contexts to contribute to a discourse of visual culture.

The department was actively involved in the post 9/11 initiative here is new york: A Democracy of Photographs. The crowd-sourced exhibition, book and website gave voice to all those affected by the events and created an egalitarian hub for collective memory. People from around the world submitted photographs of the catastrophe and its aftermath to be printed, exhibited and sold for the benefit of the Children's Aid Society's initiative to support victims. Following the Katrina hurricane, the department was once again involved in collecting and preserving photographs and memorabilia in New Orleans to preserve family histories. The department is currently collaborating with photographer, educator and SVA alum Kathy Shorr on the project SHOT: We the People, an online platform collating the stories and images of Americans affected by gun violence.

 ©Kathy Shorr, Antonius: Shot on a crowded Brooklyn street corner at 2:30 pm by a man trying to shoot his ex-girlfriend. Brooklyn, New York 2013

©Kathy Shorr, Antonius: Shot on a crowded Brooklyn street corner at 2:30 pm by a man trying to shoot his ex-girlfriend. Brooklyn, New York 2013

For its anniversary, the department will host a number of presentations, panels and discussions celebrating its distinguished alumni who are involved in using their imagery for the better social good.

These initiatives mirror Traub's belief that rapidly proliferating technologies, while neces­sarily inviting concerns about privacy and ethics, empower millions of people to raise their voices and participate in social change. Despite the potential pitfalls, Traub says, "Technology allows the little person to speak for the many, and per­haps many to react to the one." As photography becomes increasingly democratized, the role of lens-based arts continues to expand beyond the gallery walls into the social and political sphere. Contemporary technologies have the potential to break down hierarchies, placing power in the hands of the people. And that, according to Traub, is the future of images. [article by Keren Moscovitch, from ContinuEd, an SVA publication]

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banner: FengIi Yuan (MFA Photo/ Video Class of 2016), The Chinese Dream II