The Village Voice photographers captured the change and turmoil

The Village Voice, America’s first alternative weeklies, shut down in late August. Social justice movements lost their biggest cheerleader.

The Voice, founded in 1955, covered civil rights issues, including race relations, police violence, gentrification and homelessness. The New York Times may have only mentioned a gay-rights march briefly, but the Voice would give it front page coverage.

The Voice has played an important role in the promotion and publication of social documentary photography.

As LewishineJacob Riis, and other Voice photojournalists like Donna Binder, Ricky Flores, Lisa Kahane T.L. Litt, Thomas MacGovern, Brian Palmer, Joseph Rodriguez, and Linda Rosier captured the rage, fear, and struggles of the marginalized communities in the city.

These photographers have captured in issue after issue the anger and despair of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the grief of black and Latino New Yorkers whose family and friends had been killed by white mobs and police, and the battles for affordable housing.

Their work appears in “Whose Streets? Our Streets is a traveling exhibit we co-curated along with Meg Handler & Michael Kamber. It features photojournalists who covered social justice struggles on the streets in New York City between 1980 and 2000.

Handler, former photo editor of the Voice, and three photographers who regularly contributed to the publication were interviewed to learn more about the importance of the Voice’s photography approach.

Unabashedly active approach

The Village Voice was founded in 1955 and quickly became the preferred outlet for photojournalists.

Handler, who was a photo editor for the Voice at the beginning of the 1990s, saw three main points:

“One, the politics of the newspaper were never in doubt. From its beginnings, Fred W. McDarrah, longtime Voice photographer and photo editor, called it a “commie, hippie, and pinko rag.” Two, there were many freelancers hired by the paper, so the chance to work with people who had different interests and cover topics that were important to them was available. It was also a “photographer’s newspaper,” which meant that images were not cropped and their subjects weren’t misrepresented.

Tom McGovern, a photographer who worked for the Voice between 1988 and 1995, credits the magazine with giving him freedom to take the photos he wanted in order to inform others about the AIDS crisis.

McGovern’s photographs of the AIDS Crisis would be eventually published in his book ” bearing witness (To AIDS” in 1999. He told us that he had a simple motivation: “challenge negative stereotypes about AIDS and who is affected by it.”

He said, “It wasn’t traditional journalism.” “I never thought of myself as completely objective. I certainly supported the cause.”

McGovern’s photographs highlighted the work done by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP New York), which used street theater and direct action to draw attention to ineffective government responses to HIV/AIDS.

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