With 2012 we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Aperture magazine’s founding. Such temporal markers commonly demand both a rearview assessment and a forward-looking reckoning, and we have filled our first issue of this year with some of both.
EUGÈNE ATGET (1857-1927) is the subject of the traveling exhibition Eugène Atget: Paris, 1898-1924, which opened at the Fundación Mapfre in Madrid last year. DAVID CAMPANY’S books include Photography and Cinema (Reaktion, 2008), Jeff Wall: Picture for Women (Afterall/MIT Press, 2011), and Walker Evans: The Magazine Work (Steidl, forthcoming).
During the mid-to late 1960s, photographer Danny Lyon chronicled the "slum clearance" required by two enormous infrastructure projects in New York City: a new ramp for the Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center. The results were solemn portraits of Manhattan's stout brick and cast-iron buildings, the men responsible for bringing those structures down, and, in interior scenes, the accretion of human history and labor those buildings preserved.
Early in Jonathan Demme's 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter instructs Clarice Starling about the processes of obsession and desire—"How do we begin to covet, Clarice?" he asks. "Do we seek out things to covet? ... No. We begin by coveting what we see every day."
Disoriented, distracted, delighted—that’s the sequence of emotions I recall while watching Merce Cunningham’s dances, works that presented a field of activity, nonstop and nonlinear. The dances began as if they had always been taking place, and ended as if they would go on, as if they existed in some other sphere of existence that you’d temporarily visited.
Fashion is a very complicated affair, both a reflection of culture and an attempt to influence it, plus class and individual distinctions (the designer's and the wearer's), shifting ideas about women (sometimes approaching misogyny), and varying proportions of art, commerce, sex, experiment, sensationalism, bandwagon, uniform.
When he was a young man, Harry Callahan encountered two very different people, both of whom would change his life. The first was Ansel Adams, whom Callahan met in 1941 through a camera club workshop in Detroit. Adams not only taught the twenty-nine-year-old Callahan a great deal about technical approaches to photographing the American landscape, he also liberated the young man to feel that photography was a livelihood to which it was worth dedicating his life.
In a kind of curator’s call to action, Jens Hoffmann, curator at San Francisco’s CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, commissioned twelve contemporary American photographers to capture the state of the nation as it weathers the current “Great Recession.”
International portfolio reviews have been a part of photography's infrastructure since the 1970s, when collectors, curators, editors, and other photographers would sit in the plazas and cafés of Arles during the annual Rencontres looking at young photographers’ prints.
LIEKO SHIGA OUT OF A CREVASSE: THE DAYS AFTER THE TSUNAMI
In 2008, a year after her book Canary was published, Lieko Shiga moved to Kitagama, a village in Japan’s Tohoku region, where she worked as a local photographer. During this time she began preparing an oral-history archive of Kitagama. She also created new works from images that inspired her during her interactions with the town's residents.
From the scratching and painting of the Pictorialists to the scratching and burning of contemporary artists like Marco Breuer, manipulation of the negative has been central—whether embraced or excoriated—to the problematic of art photography.
NEAL CASSADY AND THE MAMBO: METAPHOR OF THE MOMENT
ROBERT FARRIS THOMPSON
From 1949 to 1959 was the Mambo Age. Afro-Cuban rhythms blared from everywhere and became the adoptive dance music of the Beat Generation. In the early 1970s the novelist John Clellon Holmes, who had named that generation in a New York Times Magazine article of 1952 (the phrase itself having been coined by Jack Kerouac), wrote to me on the importance of mambo to the Beats: "Mambo was very much of our scene.
Stop and go: always on some journey. My bounty is a photograph or two. I remember what pulled me, an instant of clarity, a moment of perfection, but where was I? Beyond the edge it often fades to darkness: I don't always remember the season or the place.
Photography's rambling, unsystematic past is becoming increasingly available to us—not least the history of illustrated printed matter, which is now easily accessed and uploaded via the Internet and is being studied with growing intensity.
Argentina suffered several military coups over the past century. The saga began in 1930 when the country's army toppled the democratically elected government of Hipólito Yrigoyen. A succession of harsh authoritarian regimes followed; but the military dictatorship that began on March 24, 1976, stood out among those regimes, because it imposed state terrorism in its war against a spectrum of the populace, from political activists, trade unionists, students, journalists, and intellectuals to Marxist and Peronist guerrillas.
Throughout photographer Viviane Sassen's series Flamboya (2002-8), under intense sunlight and amid vibrant foliage, clothing, soils, cityscapes, and landscapes (to which Sassen sometimes adds brightly colored powders and props as well), the faces of her Kenyan, Ugandan, Tanzanian, Zambian, and Ghanaian models are often concealed by heavy shadows, their dark skin rendered truly black and devoid of detail.
It is, or was, the photographer's ideal: to be highly regarded— literally, much looked-at—yet almost anonymous. Very little is known about Eugène Atget the man. There are no daybooks or diaries. In books about his work the biographical facts rarely run to more than a couple of paragraphs.
In his 2011 film Passione, John Turturro takes a careful, empathetic look at Naples by listening to its music and songs written in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He discerns the close and painful relationship between the city and those songs, which he outlines, mixing in his own fashion images, sounds, and words.
Beth Gates Warren: ARTFUL LIVES: EDWARD WESTON, MARGRETHE MATHER, AND THE BOHEMIANS OF LOS ANGELES
Beth Gates Warren
Weston was filled with the bravado that comes of a sheltered youth, and as he departed his hometown he was convinced that someday people would know the name Edward Weston. Not long after Weston left Chicago, Margrethe Mather purchased a rail ticket in Salt Lake City.
Sliwinski aims at nothing less than an aesthetics of visual images depicting human rights abuses, trauma, and genocide, that is, an understanding of their logic as images and the way their circulation creates community. [...] (continued on next page) (Human Rights in Camera continued) Most impressive in Sliwinski's approach is her willingness to tolerate ambiguity.
Hubert Burda: THE DIGITAL WUNDERKAMMER: 10 CHAPTERS ON THE ICONIC TURN
After important philosophers of the 20th century had formulated a "Linguistic Turn" and shown how very much what we think of our world emerges first from our language, we now need to explore what it means that our world is increasingly becoming a world of images: the "Linguistic Turn" is now being complemented by the "Iconic Turn."
Jerome Liebling, who died last summer at the age of eighty-seven, was a member of a pioneering group of conscience-attuned image-makers whose work and social values helped to define the ethics of observation in our own era. He leaves behind a body of compassionate, consequential work, and a train of influence on the many artists who benefited from his impactful teachings.
PAUL MULDOON ON R. J. WELCH'S TWO GIRLS SETTING SEED POTATOES, LATE 1890s
The potato crop is one so closely associated with Ireland that it finds its way into that most archetypical of Irish songs, "Galway Bay," where "the women in the uplands diggin' praties/speak a language that the strangers do not know." This song, popularized by Bing Crosby, was written as recently as 1947 by Doctor Arthur Colahan.