A forward-thinking new exhibition at New York’s MoMA spotlights the contemporary image-makers paving the way for a new generation

Being: New Photography 2018, the Museum of Modern Art’s latest exhibition of contemporary photography, explores the concepts of identity and personhood in photo-based art. The exhibit considers how these ideas intersect and diverge, as well as their relativity to larger questions of modern existence and human experience. “While personhood is something that we all share, also inherent in these representations is the recognition of difference, which is especially urgent in our current moment when rights of representation are contested for many individuals,” says Lucy Gallun, MoMA’s assistant curator of photography, and the curator behind the show. “Universality in humanity does not mean sameness.”

Through a diverse collection of works, Being questions the traditions of photography, the relationship between the body and the self, the photographic perspective and its subjective influence, and the dialectics between privacy, presentation, intimacy and exposure. Five artists in Being offer particularly veritable responses to how identity is defined in the present day – as we explore here.

1. Sam Contis

Sam Contis’ series Deep Springs speaks to the idea of community and the social self. Contis spent lengthy visits at a traditionally all-male liberal arts college in the high desert of California, a remote backdrop that contrasts starkly with the group mode of collegiate life. “Contis’ subjects are pictured at a moment in their lives – the early college years – that has been typically understood as a time of coming into one’s adult self,” said Gallun.  “In this case, such identity-formation is impacted by group social dynamics as well as connection to the characteristic western landscape.”