The Age of the Image

  • “Steve Apkon is one of the leading visualists and educators of the day, and this sumptuously detailed and profound new book should be required reading for anyone who thinks about how to effectively communicate in this new world of screens.”

    – JONATHAN DEMME Academy Award-winning director

The Age of the Image

Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens

Stephen Apkon; Foreword by Martin Scorsese
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

We live in a world awash in images. The recent technological revolutions in video recording, editing, and distribution are more akin to the development of moveable type than any other such revolution in the last five hundred years. And yet, most of us are not aware of the grammar of visual communication, the coded messages of its style, or the practical components of its production. We are largely, in a word, illiterate.

In The Age of the Image, Apkon draws on the history of literacy, on the science of how storytelling works on the human brain, and on the value of literacy in real-world situations, and argues that now is the time to transform the way we teach, create, and communicate so that we can all step forward together into a rich and stimulating future.

A short film for Stephen Apkon’s new book, The Age of the Image.

Film by Daniel Liss.


Ideas that Matter: The 2013 New Media Consortium Conference

Stephen Apkon highlights how storytelling is an underlying influence of new media and technology. Images are powerful because of the physiology of our brains that make the act of seeing a constant creative experience.

Steve Apkon on the new literacy, on KVON’s “Specific Gravity” radio show with Jeff Schectman

What do we really know and understand about the “grammar” and the structure of visual communication? How are stories and our appreciation of them, different when we watch them, as opposed to reading them? How will this new realm of visual literacy shape our children and how they see and set out to change the world?

Oh, You Must’ Have Been a Visually Literate Baby

Designer Steven Heller on Edward and Mary Steichen's 1930's book for children

My Trip to the Jacob Burns Center

"I learned how the next generation to master digital imaging will have huge advantages. . . I hope that every educator will read this book."

SF Chronicle on The Age of the Image

"From cave paintings to YouTube ephemera, Apkon is a keen surveyor. His appreciations are succinctly academic, his wisdom warm and teacherly."

Five Stars from the San Francisco Review of Books

“By turns profound and practical, The Age of the Image can be a soulfully erudite companion to the technical manuals in film schools, or a handbook for audiences wanting to deepen their experience of media.”

Edutopia’s Summer Reading for Educators

“The whole book is a great read, but the chapter called 'Teaching a New Generation' should be required reading for every teacher.”

Paying Attention in the Digital Age

On the need for new literacies in education.

On Navigating the Age of the Image

Steve chats with KUOW’s Ross Reynolds on The Conversation

Editor’s Choice: The Age of the Image by Stephen Apkon

Steve’s book reviewed in The Buffalo News

In the unthinking age, seeing is believing

Financial Times’s Christopher Caldwell on The Age of the Image (PDF)

Stephen Apkon feature on About Writing

Host Ben Cheever discusses the new book, The Age of the Image, with the author, Stephen Apkon. (PCTV)

Martin Scorsese's 2013 Jefferson Lecture

Scorsese argues that we need to "stress visual literacy in the schools", citing The Age of the Image. "We need to do away with the distinctions between the verbal and the visual. . . .At the end, there really is only literacy".(more)

Steve Apkon Receives Honorary Degree

Apkon addressed members of Pace's Undergraduate Class of 2012, Pleasantville Campus, their families, and friends at Pace's Commencement on Friday, May 11, 2012 (more)



November 14, 2013
Amherst Cinema
28 Amity Street
Amherst, MA 01002



Steven Apkon
Photo: Lynda Shenkman Curtis

Mr. Apkon, a social entrepreneur, formed the Jacob Burns Film Center, with a vision of establishing a center for independent, foreign and documentary films and education. Under his 13 year tenure as Executive Director, the JBFC grew to become a major cultural destination and a national leader in the field of visual literacy. In May, 2014 Mr. Apkon stepped down as the Executive Director of the JBFC to focus on film projects and other non-profit initiatives.

Mr. Apkon serves on the boards of The World Cinema Foundation and Advancing Human Rights. He is President of Big 20 Productions, the producer of Enlistment Days directed by Ido Haar and a producer of I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful directed by Jonathan Demme. He is currently in production as director and producer of Peaceful Warriors.

A native of Framingham, MA, Mr. Apkon graduated from Georgetown University in 1983. In 1986, he received an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, where he graduated with distinction. In 2012 he received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Pace University. He is the author of The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in April 2013, in which he convincingly argues that now is the time to transform the way we teach, create, and communicate so that we can all step forward together into a rich and stimulating future.


You can follow Stephen on Twitter @steveapkon

Contact Stephen here.

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