The Social Medium

Presented at a time when the compulsion to digitally document and share human activity has increased exponentially, this exhibition features works from deCordova’s permanent collection that prefigure and inform current trends in social photography, as well as recent work by contemporary artists who utilize smartphones and social media to record the world around them. The Social Medium features work spanning from the mid-twentieth century to the present, and includes multiple photographic genres such as social documentary, street, society/celebrity, and portrait photography.

The Social Medium was largely inspired by a recent gift of one of Andy Warhol’s Little Red Books, which contains a set of color Polaroids. With his camera, Warhol documented the events of his life—from glamorous celebrity parties to mundane occurrences. The arrival of these photographs, which record Warhol’s artistic and social milieu (or environment), created an opportunity to examine the work of other artists who also photograph social experience.

Together, the work in this exhibition speaks to the continued relevance of the photographic medium’s singular power to capture and preserve personal and societal histories, and provides a selective history of the camera’s role as an extension of memory and a tool that is at once a witness to and participant in human social activity.

This exhibition features the work of Jules Aarons, Elsa Dorfman, Larry Fink, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Lotte Jacobi, Rodger Kingston, Phillip Maisel, Nicholas Nixon, Tod Papageorge, Bill Ravanesi, Eugene Richards, Michal Ronnen Safdie, Greg Schmigel, Neal Slavin, and Andy Warhol. The Social Medium has been generously funded by an anonymous donor.