In the 1980s, as more and more institutions and galleries became as interested in photography as they were in what was beginning to be referred to as “contemporary art,” the main channel for contemporary photography at MoMA was the New Photography exhibitions, made up primarily of noncollection works. The first such exhibition, organized by Szarkowski in 1985 and intended to be an annual event, featured work by Zeke Berman, Antonio Mendoza, Ross, and Michael Spano. Szarkowski hoped thus to place contemporary creation at the center of the department’s programming: “New Photography will occupy twice the space of our former one-man series, and will show three or four photographers whose work—individually and collectively—seems to represent the most interesting achievements of new photography.”
It has been a window on the Museum’s approach to photography, and it continues to be one of the very few regularly occurring contemporary series at the Museum. To date the series has presented more than a hundred artists, divided almost equally between Americans and non-Americans and covering a broad photographic range according to the different sensibilities of various curators. Many of the photographers and artists represented in this volume were first shown at MoMA in a New Photography exhibition, which also provided the occasion for their first works to be acquired by the Museum. The series has encompassed framed prints, images on screens, commercial books, self-published books, zines, posters, photo-based installations and videos, and site-specific works, and it will continue to present all the different forms that the photographic image can take.
– Quentin Bajac, "Contemporary Photography at MoMA," in Photography at MoMA: 1960 to Now