Magnum Photos was founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger, and David "Chim" Seymour; the venerable cooperative celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this spring. It is unlikely that its founders could have predicted the extent to which photography has been transformed over the last six decades.
Dear Melissa: I read your Editor's Note in Aperture issue 185 with interest, and would like to add a few notes of my own, if I may. I am now in my fourth year of retirement, after four decades of producing Aperture's books and the magazine, and OK'ing more than five hundred projects on press.
VINCE ALETTI contributes critical writings to the New Yorker, Modern Painters, Photograph, Artforum, and other publications. His work has appeared in many books, including Andrew Roth's Book of 101 Books. Aletti was the winner of the International Center of Photography's 2005 Infinity Award in writing.
Aperture (ISSN 0003-6420) is published quarterly, in spring, summer, fall, and winter, at 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor, New York, New York, 10001. A one-year subscription (four issues) is $40 and a two-year subscription (eight issues) is $66.
The time has come for European photography. For the last three decades, photography in Europe has been in fine health, but before that there were many good European photographers working in isolation, largely because the kinds of institutions that supported serious photography in the United States had not yet developed here.
Throughout the history of storytelling, twilight—when day turns to night, and the visible world slips into a murky darkness—has represented both an enchanted and a treacherous time, pregnant with allusive potential. As Martin Barnes, co-curator of the Victoria and Albert's Twilight: Photography in the Magic Hour, explains: "Obscurity lies at the heart of twilight's threat and its appeal—[and] what is clear is that the magic hour chimes once again with the mood of our times and continues to cast its spell."
PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE SELF: THE LEGACY OF F. HOLLAND DAY
Throughout history, artists have frequently honed their skills and ideas by practicing upon themselves. With the willing subject always at hand, and liberated from the expectations of a paying client, self-portraiture has been a standard practice in the toolkit of young artists, and has indeed produced some of the great paintings of Western art.
PERSIAN VISIONS: CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY FROM IRAN
There's a soothing fiction that if artists ran the world, there would be no wars. It's rooted in the belief that all artists are somehow brothers and sisters, that political, cultural, racial, religious, and economic conflicts, be they petty or profound, would in some way be glossed over by international communities of artists, that the creative spirit will always trump the baser passions that drive our souls.
The documentary film Excellent Cadavers, directed by Marco Turco and based on the book by Alexander Stille, exposes the interwoven political and criminal relationships that run through the fabric of life in Sicily. The central figures in the film are the anti-Mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino; their murders, in two separate assassinations, set in motion the film's narrative and serve as a tragic leitmotif throughout the story that unfolds.
My high-school senior class voted unanimously to skip our senior prom. It was a small private school; most of us had known one another since childhood—we couldn't wait to graduate and get the hell out of there. The last thing we wanted—it really would have seemed insane—was to pair off and clutch each other as a turning, mirrored ball sprinkled us with coins of glittery light.
COMPOSITES OF THE REAL WORLD: BARRY FRYDLENDER'S PHOTOGRAPHY
RICHARD B. WOODWARD
Landscapes in the history of art have generally functioned either as nondescript backgrounds to a human presence or as wild, uninhabited spaces for restorative contemplation. In both Western and Eastern traditions, images of trees, mountains, pasture, water, even deserts, are meant to refresh a busy mind by synchronizing it briefly with the slow, ostensibly healing rhythms of nature.
Fate is one of the most confining ideas, unless you are destined to be free. Peruvian photographer Roberto Huarcaya may think like a psychologist because of his training, or perhaps he trained to be a psychologist because of the way he thinks.
"The photograph is an 'incomplete' utterance," wrote Allan Sekula in his 1975 essay "On the Invention of Photographic Meaning." It is, he continued, "a message that depends on some external matrix of conditions and presuppositions for its readability."
The magazines on these pages were produced for an audience that their publishers never named and rarely acknowledged; in a sense, they were as closeted as many of their gay readers and even more vulnerable to discrimination and attack. Muscle magazines like Vim, Superman, Strength & Health, and La Culture Physique, some of which date back to the early 1900s, were the first to feature photographs of nearly naked men, but they were all professional and amateur bodybuilders, and their display was intended to inspire sportsman-like admiration and emulation, not prurient interest.
In Argentina, the national sport is not soccer, it's psychoanalysis. It is estimated that there are more analysts in Buenos Aires than in any other city in the world. One neighborhood in Barrio Palermo has been nicknamed Villa Freud. There you'll find the Café Sigi, with cocktail napkins depicting Freud's face half in shadow, forming the shape of a naked woman.
Magnum is sixty years old this year. As anyone with the slightest interest in photography knows, the most renowned photographic cooperative in the world was founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David "Chim" Seymour, and George Rodger.
Hunter S. Thompson once wrote: "Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." The quote is emblematic of the subjective "Gonzo" journalism genre that Thompson pioneered. Legendary for his toxic madness, fueled by a steady cocktail of speed and hallucinogens, he was an astute observer of the American political scene, as fond of firearms as of heaving vitriolic criticism on rotten politicians.
What is remarkable about contemporary art photography is the seemingly paradoxical relationship between...the medium's diffusion across a varied mix of conventions, materials and technologies, which would seem to deny the clarity of meaning, and the reinvention of documentary representation....
[Michel Foucault wrote] of how towards the end of the seventeenth century an administrative mechanism of registration, in the form of documents and archives, was inaugurated by the state.... The information deposited in the archive became the authorized source of knowledge and legitimate evidence of the existence, identity and status of the individual.
The great majority of trees, like the great majority of people, would seem to be the way they are in a matter of fact way. This includes even the world's great group tree manifestations such as the umbrella pines of Rome...the cherry trees of the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., the cedars of Lebanon, the immense birch tree forests of Russia, the live oaks of the Deep South, dripping with Spanish moss, and the giant redwoods of Northern California.
Chancel holds [the] exotic carnival of social realism at a distance and at the same time presents it with an absence of emotional expression that enables him to steer clear of political imagery. What, then, did he set out to observe? Not the poverty which the guise of a reporter would have allowed him to record...but a world of formalities, in which attitudes and images, buildings and sculptures, town planning and showpieces are enshrined in the endless ritual of the photogenic....
"Photography is meant to be looked at in books, not on the wall," maintained Henri Cartier-Bresson, who would doubtless have been pleased to know that the sixteenth edition of Paris's Mois de la Photo was devoted to "The Printed Page." In other words, and more than sixty exhibitions, not only books but newspapers, magazines, and posters, from photojournalism and documentary essays to advertising and fashion, portraiture and "people," catalogs, artist's books, photomontages, and even a "photo-graphic" novel.
THE GUERRILLA GIRLS ON THE IMAGE THAT LAUNCHED A STEREOTYPE
A group of feminists organized a protest at the Miss America Pageant in 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. They tossed female accessories like makeup, high heels, and girdles into a trash can. A reporter for the New York Post, sent to do a humorous piece on the protest, likened it to anti—Vietnam War actions where draft cards were burned in front of TV cameras.