Photo editor, curator and professor Fred Ritchin has joined the International Center of Photography as dean of the School at ICP. In his new role, Ritchin will oversee the education of more than 5,000 students each year.
“ICP is an incubator for great ideas, projects and innovation,” Ritchin tells TIME. “The key word is experimentation, and having a safe and challenging place to innovate and try out new ideas.”
As dean, Ritchin will work to ensure that ICP students (and faculty) creatively address the countless challenges photographers face in today’s frenetic, ever-changing media landscape.
“With billions of images uploaded every day, how do you make sense of it, and how do you make meaningful images?” he asks. “What’s the difference between an image and a photograph? What’s the difference between multimedia and hyper-photography? How can fictional and non-fictional photography [work together]? How can you authenticate what is credible and what is not credible? How do you deal with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s ability to define its own image? How do you make sense of all that?”
The number and the scale of the challenges are enormous, he says, but Ritchin also believes ICP is uniquely placed to tackle them. “We have lots of different programs where the idea is to help people become media literate; to teach them how to consume images.”
In the months to come, Ritchin will evaluate the School’s programs with the goal of adding more “cutting-edge” artists and documentarians to the mix. “ICP has been fantastic in the 20th century,” he says, “and now there’s a chance to add to that while respecting the older traditions.”
Mark Lubell, ICP’s Executive Director, says that Ritchin “has a deep understanding of the possibilities present in the medium today and a demonstrated commitment to the ideals of ‘concerned photography’ that are at the heart of ICP.”
Ritchin’s arrival at ICP will result in Phillip Block’s reassignment in weeks to come. The Director of Education, who has been at ICP for 32 years, is expected to be transferred to another area of the school where, Lubell says, his “expertise and enthusiasm … will prove invaluable as we plan for our vibrant future.”
In recent months, Lubell, who joined ICP in November 2013, has been advocating for the center to embrace the dramatic changes that have redefined the role of photographer.
“There are 880 billion images taken in one year. We are all documenting and taking pictures through these new vehicles,” he recently told the New York Times. “But who is making sense of that? You still need to have a professional eye being an arbiter of this communication, and that is the role I see ICP playing.”