Picturing Protest

Gordon Parks, for LIFE magazine. Untitled, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1963, printed 2016. Inkjet print. Princeton University Art Museum / © The Gordon Parks Foundation

The civil rights movement and the movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam came to the fore in the 1960s, spurring protests across America both spectacular and everyday. As protests gave material form to First Amendment freedoms—religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition—photographers transformed the visibility of collective action, much of it led by students. Fifty years after the watershed events of 1968, Picturing Protest examines the visual framing of political demonstrations around the country and on Princeton’s campus. These images archive protests’ choreography, whether procession, sit-in, or violent clash. They also capture the gestures of protest, with hands signaling anguish, self-defense, and solidarity. At a time when the coverage and circulation of news media was rapidly expanding, many of these photographs became icons of social struggle, fundamentally changing the ways people visualized America; five decades later, they continue to do this work. Drawn from Princeton University collections, the images on view compel us to contemplate the capacity of protest, and of art, to imagine, interpret, and cultivate change.

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More about the exhibition

Picturing Protest has been made possible by the Anne C. Sherrerd, Graduate School Class of 1987, Art Museum Fund.