We have truly exciting news to share with you: thanks to the generosity of the not-for-profit organization Joy of Giving Something, Inc. (JGS), Aperture is able, for the very first time, to commission a large-scale photographic story.
Shows and festivals often take on large, socially important themes—such as the formation of identity, the exploration of the genome, globalization— to give them unity and heft. Water was the theme of this year’s FotoFest, and of fortysome-odd (out of well over a hundred) shows at Houston’s biennial photography festival.
BETWEEN PAST AND FUTURE NEW PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO FROM CHINA
It’s comforting to know that our ideas about art—and specifically lens-based contemporary art—are shared by cultures far removed from our own. Knowing that the Chinese, for example, are capable of producing photographs and videos that look a lot like American and European photographs and videos helps validate the aesthetic and marketplace values we in the West hold dear.
Curator William A. Ewing is hardly the first to suggest that the notion of the photographic portrait as a window on the soul is passé. Even before photography's documentary credibility was deliberately and irrevocably eroded from within, pictures of our fellow humans had been stripped of virtually all pretense to revelation, insight, or any but the most superficial emotional content.
For Aperture's first commissioned photographic project, realized through the generosity of Joy of Giving Something, Inc., British photographer Jason Florio traveled to Libya this past spring. Over the course of three weeks, Florio chronicled what he discovered there: a place and a people attempting, with both eagerness and apprehension, to redefine themselves.
In his multipanel photographs, David Hilliard constructs cinematic narratives that, although they may derive from his particular social relations, speak of the larger experience of trying to understand how one may belong in the world.
On a beautiful spring day in 1983, although it was almost noon, Robert Doisneau and I were walking in darkness. We were on a narrow walkway under the dank, salt-petered vaults of Paris's Canal Saint Martin. At the end of the tunnel we could see the Japanese-style drawbridge immortalized by Marcel Carné in his film Hôtel du Nord.
EYES ON A FAST WORLD The World Press Photo Contest 2004
Early this year, I traveled to Amsterdam and, along with other members of an international jury, looked at the 63,093 images that were entered in the World Press Photo Contest. Over a two-week period of concentrated sessions, we awarded prizes for most outstanding stories and individual pictures in ten categories, from Spot News to Daily Life to Nature.
One of the great effects of the West's burgeoning cultural interest in contemporary art photography has been a reappraisal of photography's histories, including those generated from non-Western centers. Until recently (and still, among many people), the great majority of non-Western photography has been considered solely in its capacity as precursor, correspondent, or result of Western photographic practice.
It surprises many people to be told that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, deathbed portraits of expired notables (Victor Hugo, Marcel Proust, Kaiser Wilhelm, etc.) were reproduced in the press. This was merely the public extension of the common practice of commissioning postmortem portraits within families, a practice linked to the much older one of making death masks.
Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2004 A photographer’s challenge is to develop an “eye” or point of view so personal that it becomes his recognizable style. All decisions of craft (camera, film, and photographic paper) are made to enhance that point of view. It is one step harder to sustain that “eye” throughout a project, so that the pictures are related one to the other, and again, a step harder for the picture to be sequenced in an order that further shapes and enriches the whole.
Geoffrey Batchen: FORGET ME NOT: Photography & Remembrance
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004 But is photography indeed a good way to remember things? The question demands that we define what we mean by “memory,” for there are many types of memory we call “photographic,” meaning an exact and self-conscious recall of past events, scenes, or texts.
Amsterdam: Ludion, 2004 In the closing scenes of Truth Lies Within, Bruno Stevens gives us images of an Iraq emerging stumbling blindly into an uncertain future. We can see that people are out on the streets, trying to get on with their daily lives, but we also see that they have not survived unscathed.
VINCE ALETTI is the art editor and photography critic for the Village Voice and writes the regular "Photobooks" column for Photograph. He was a major contributor to Andrew Roth's Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century (2000).
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