May 12, 2011 2:25 PM EDT

Curated by photo editor Elisabeth Biondi and photojournalist Enrico Bossan, the five-day event aims to highlight the changing state of documentary photography.

Post updated May 14, 2011.

On Thursday night, the NYPH celebrated Under the Bridge: Projections of a Revolution, which spotlighted photos and videos from the recent revolutions in North Africa. Attendees gathered to hear music from DJ Awesome Tapes from Africa and see images projected onto the archway under the Manhattan Bridge. A silence fell over the crowd when the slide show stopped to honor Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, two photojournalists who were killed on April 20 while photographing the conflict in Libya.

Demoralized by the reelection of President Barack Obama but calmed by Washington's failure to enact new gun control laws, hate groups are on the decline in the United States. That's according to a new report out Tuesday from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which found that the number of hate groups in the U.S. declined by seven percent in 2013. After a dramatic rise following Obama’s first election and the worst of the recession, the number of anti-government “patriot” group identified by the SPLC also fell 19 percent between 2012 and 2013. The author of the new report, SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok, said momentum on the far-right experienced a marked turnaround in 2013 when it became clear that congressional efforts to enact significant gun control legislation would fail. “Guns and gun control are so much at the heart of the radical right,” Potok sad. “That looked like an issue that was going to become white hot, but it essentially died and went away.” The failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform also left some hate groups without a clear target for their messaging, Potok said. Nativist groups that oppose immigration have declined dramatically since a peak in 2010, when SPLC counted 319 such organizations in the U.S. In 2013, there were just 22 nativist groups in operation, according to SPLC. And Potok said growing public support for liberal causes such as same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana have left the far-right feeling “depressed and deflated." Despite a steady downward trend in the number of hate groups identified by the SPLC, there are still far more such organization than in the past. There were 602 hate groups in the U.S. in 2000, rising to 1,018 in 2011. In 2013, according to SPLC, there were 939 hate groups across the country. The power of hate groups is largely rooted in their ability to exist as an alternative to mainstream political debate. In recent years, as local, state and national political figures affiliated with the tea party movement have adopted some views that previously only existed outside the mainstream political system, the far-right has struggled to rally support for its organizations. Various scandals within the hierarchies of some hate groups, as well as deaths and arrests of some leaders, have also hurt organizations' ability to recruit and build their ranks. If immigration reform becomes a reality in Congress this year, far-right groups could be re-energized, according to Potok. “If comprehensive immigration reform moves forward in any serious way and there is not an extremely hot reaction from those within the political mainstream," Potok said, "these groups will start to grow again."
Report sees a decrease after an explosion over the last decade and following the election of Barack Obama

“There are no more discoveries to be made,” Elisabeth Biondi tells me on the opening night of the fourth annual New York Photo Festival. “Anyone can take a picture now, so it’s forced documentary photographers to have a more personalized vision.”

It’s that changing state of photojournalism that’s the theme of this year’s festival, which runs through May 15 in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. Founded in 2008 by powerHouse Books publisher Daniel Power and former managing editor of VII Photo Agency Frank Evers, the five-day event will showcase more than 3,000 photographs displayed in several warehouse spaces, as well as multimedia shows and artist lectures. But the main exhibitions, curated by Biondi and photojournalist Enrico Bossan, are presented under a shared theme, PHOTOGRAPHY NOW: engaged, personal, and vital.

Biondi’s looked at thousands of photos throughout her decades-long career as a photo editor (she left the New Yorker this March after a 15-year tenure). But the variety and strength of photojournalism sparked her interest anew when she was judging a photography awards show last year in London. “This sort of dichotomy between the really creative output being so strong and, on the other hand, the economic climate being so dire, struck me,” she says. “I thought, ‘How did these photographers get there?’ because we knew that assignments are rare these days.” Her portion of the exhibit, called Subjective/Objective, features the work of 10 photographers on issues ranging from the urbanization of Mongolia’s schools to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meanwhile, Bossan’s show, Hope: between dream and reality, also surveys a host of issues, among them the Bosnia genocide and Mexico’s drug war. But the exhibit is focused on a group of young photographers Bossan has followed for nearly five years. “The young generation today is just in time with what’s happening around the world,” he says. “What I like about them is how they push to change the ideals of photography.”

And for those young photographers who want to change—or at least shift—the art form, Biondi says there’s no better time than the present. “Creatively, the rules are no longer that strict about documentary photography. The borders have been widened and photographers can have their own voice much more than they were ever allowed traditionally.”

— Reporting by Feifei Sun. Produced by Vaughn Wallace.

More information on schedules, exhibitions and lectures is available on the Festival’s homepage.

Exhibition Hours:
Wednesday, May 11 – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 12 – 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday, May 13 – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 14 – 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 15 – 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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