America in Crisis brings together 40 leading American photographers exploring social change in the United States from the 1960s to today.

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US President Donald Trump ignores shouted questions from reporters as he walks to the White House from Marine One with First Lady Melania Trump after returning from Mar-A-Lago to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. United States, December 31, 2020. REUTERS / Léa Millis

America in Crisis will bring together 40 leading American photographers and more than 120 works exploring social change in the United States from the 1960s to today. Organized by the Saatchi Gallery, the exhibition is curated by Sophie Wright, Gregory Harris of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and Los Angeles-based photographer and scholar Tara Pixley.

America in Crisis was a revolutionary group initiative originally conceived in 1969 to assess the state of the nation. This Magnum Photos project was led by American photographer Charles Harbutt and Lee Jones, then Magnum’s New York bureau chief.

The Selma March Alabama USA 1965. © Bruce Davidson Magnum Photos

In 1970, Charles Harbutt said of the original project:

Many of us felt that the 1968 elections would be somewhat special; that deeper issues for America were not limited to simply electing a president. I felt the fundamental problem was that the traditional American self-image as learned in public schools, Hollywood movies, advertisements and 4th of July speeches – the American Dream itself – was being handed over in question… “

UNITED STATES. Miami, Florida. 1968. Massive support for Richard Nixon at the Republican Convention. © Elliott Erwitt Magnum-Photos-

The group project took a critical look at the United States at a time of great social, political, and cultural change and examined the key events of 1968 leading up to Nixon’s inauguration. The 2022 exhibition at Saatchi Gallery will create a dialogue between the original historical photographs of the 1969 Magnum Project and new works produced five decades later, by various contemporary practitioners, during another tumultuous time in America.

Despite the proliferation of “fake news” in recent years, the role of photography as a means of recording and “witnessing” remains more relevant today than ever. America in crisis explores the similarities and differences between two eras of recent American history through the photographs produced during each pivotal period. This exhibit explores deep-rooted national debates around gun control and racial inequality, as well as topics of global impact such as the digital revolution and the climate crisis.

Lee Square Richmond Virginia 2020 Courtesy of Sasha Wolf Projects © Kris Graves.

Revisiting and updating this exhibition creates a unique dialogue between the main photographers of 1968, such as Bruce Davidson, Elliott Erwitt and Mary Ellen Mark, and the works of contemporaries of 2020, such as Kris Graves, Balazs Gardi, Zora J Murff, Sheila Pree Bright and Stacy Kranitz. The exhibition highlights the themes present in both eras, confronting the myth of American exceptionalism with the reality of current events.

Pink Sidewalk Florida 2017. From the Floodzone series © Anastasia Samoylova

Following Harbutt’s original concept, the 2022 exhibition follows the same chapter structure found in the 1969 publication. Section titles such as The series of violence, The Deep Roots of Poverty and The battle for equality carry a contemporary resonance. Bringing these two eras of documentary photography together also provides an opportunity to examine the changes in documentary practice and image culture that have occurred in the intervening period.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Joint Senate Judicial Commerce Committees Washington-2018.-©-Reuters_Leah-Millis.

The original America in Crisis project was conceived not only as an exhibition and a publication, but also as an experimental film and an installation. Faithful to the interactive presentation of the original project, the 2022 exhibition will include an immersive and interactive installation that speaks to the contemporary consumption of the image.

Chicago 1968, Crowd and blind statue © Charles Harbut

From £5, concessions available; children under 10 are free (terms and conditions apply). Free entry for Saatchi Gallery members
Tickets are welcome, but pre-booking is advised. Tickets can be reserved in advance online at saatchigallery.com/tickets.

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Marc Westall

Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform

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