ICP’s Infinity Awards Acknowledges Photography’s Best

Classing things up on the Chelsea Piers

Zanele Muholi
Bester I, Mayotte, 2015© Zanele Muholi

Last night, the movers and shakers of photography once again descended on New York City for the International Center of Photography’s annual Infinity Awards ceremony. Among the most coveted prizes in photography, the Awards—this year marked their 32nd bestowal—drew more than 500 well-heeled guests to Chelsea Piers’ glamorously decorated Pier 60 ballroom. Outside its windows, the lights of Jersey City and Hoboken played across the Hudson’s surface, mirroring the sparkle of the crowd within.

Aside from some fashion shoots, of course, most of photography is a less-than-glamorous affair. ICP's Infinity Awards ceremony makes up for that absence. As in the past, the evening was an exhilarating mix of the international fashion (super model Bella Hadid), Hollywood (Ben Stiller) and photo royalty—Ralph Gibson, Steve McCurry, Zanele Muholi and David Bailey, were among the evening's many A-listers.

This year’s awards continued to showcase the evolution of photography (and the ICP) as it explores more thoroughly and deeply the interplay of technology and images that defines our time. The impact of new ways of packaging and experiencing the visual is moving the medium in exciting new directions and the ICP is following them closely.

netwrokeffect.io
Jonathan Harris and Gregor Hochmuth's project networkeffect.io won the 2016 award for Online Platform & New Media during ICP's Infinity AwardsFrom: netwrokeffect.io

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the honorees that it chose for the Online Platform & New Media Award, Jonathan Harris and Gregor Hochmuth. Their web project networkeffect.io is organized around search terms that describe human actions (kiss, pray, fight, etc.). It combs the web for related pictures, videos, stats and facts, and presents them as a continuous stream-of-conscious experience—an unrelenting onslaught of information. The aggregate takes on a forceful life of its own in a mash-up of typography, media, charts, graphs, images, and videos. The result is an exciting, often overwhelming, aesthetic that feels utterly of the moment.

Zanele Muholi
Zanele Muholi gives her acceptance speech during the 2016 ICP Infinity Awards.© Peter Kolonia

Cool though that was, the highpoint of the evening for many was journalist and documentarian Zanele Muholi’s stirring acceptance speech. This South African photographer, who describes herself a visual activist, has documented the hatred, rape, violence and torture suffered by gay people in her country. Her difficult-to-look-at photos of mangled corpses and the utterly selfless and superhuman courage displayed as she hurls evidence of these crimes at the bigots who perpetrate them was a revelation. Despite the fierce nature of her response, what motivates her is neither anger nor revenge, but, she says, it’s hope for a future more accepting of people like herself all over the world.

As the evening drew to a close, I became aware of background chatter that circled around a single theme: the long awaited and soon-to-open International Center of Photography Museum at 250 Bowery in Manhattan. With the opening less than three months off (June 23rd), expectations are clearly running high among the evening’s guests after several years of relative hibernation for the organization. We can’t wait either.

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