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About click!

At this transitional moment in the 21st century—as digital technology alters the form, content, and transmission of camera imagery—click! photography changes everything provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the history, spread, practice, and power of photography.

Organized by the former Smithsonian Photography Initiative (which merged with the Smithsonian Archives in 2009), click! photography changes everything invites the public to consider the many ways in which photography enables us to see, experience, and interact with the world.

photography changes everything bookFrom 2007 through 2010, click! invited experts from a spectrum of professional worlds—innovators, image makers, writers, and public figures—to survey the ways photography has influenced the history, progress, and practice of each of their fields of interest. In addition, visitors to click! were also encouraged to contribute texts and images, and selected visitor contributor content became part of the project’s online content. Taken together, these commentaries and related images reveal how photographs are encoded with information and values, and how the meaning of images depends on the needs and perspectives we bring to them. In 2012, a print version of the project was published (Aperture/Smithsonian).

A diverse group of project contributors explored the ways photography impacted and continues to change everything—from anthropology to astrophysics, media to medicine, philosophy to sports, war to love. The goal of click! is to encourage the development of a broader, more inclusive social and cultural history of photography, and a deeper understanding of the role photographs play as active agents of change. Explore the six click! themes:

Who We Are

Photography is central to understanding who we are and how we portray ourselves and those around us. Here you’ll find stories about portraits and other pictures that create or shape who we are and how we represent ourselves in the world.

What We Do

Photography does more than document what we’ve done; it shapes what we do. Images and commentaries consider photography’s active relationship to architecture, the arts, business, communication, crime, education, work, and entertainment.

What We See

Photography allows us to see what the human eye cannot, what lies outside our daily experience, and what we choose to show to each other. Images and commentaries explore subjects that include changing photographic technologies, journalism, censorship, perception, surveillance, time, and motion.

Where We Go

Photography enables us to see beyond the boundaries of everyday life in ways that were once unimaginable. Images and commentaries address subjects such as aerospace, exploration, medical imaging, military planning, geology, oceanography, tourism, transportation, and virtual reality.

What We Want

Photography powerfully shapes our needs and expresses desire. Images and commentaries examine photography’s role in consumer culture, beauty, celebrity, entertainment, food, privacy, public relations, sex, spectacle, style, and truth.

What We Remember

Photography influences and alters our relationship to history, memory, and even death. Images and commentaries investigate how photographic images impact commemoration, history, truth, and the future.

To incorporate visual literacy concepts in the classroom, visit the click! grades 6-12 lesson plans.

The Smithsonian Photography Initiative is now part of the Smithsonian Archives. To learn more about archives in today’s world, as well as an inside look at the challenges in collecting, preserving, and presenting the Smithsonian’s history, visit THE BIGGER PICTURE. To view photographs from the collections, visit the Smithsonian Collection Search Center.


This website may contain the personal opinions of contributors and does not necessarily represent the official Smithsonian Institution (SI) position on these matters. Links to external Internet sites from SI Web pages do not constitute SI’s endorsement of the content of their Web sites or of their policies or products. The Smithsonian does not willingly collect personally identifiable information from children under the age of 13.