For this issue, which appears in the weeks before the 2012 presidential election, Aperture has invited a constellation of photographers and writers to consider the notion of “We the People?” This interrogative statement—the four syllables that open the preamble to the U.S. Constitution—begs many questions, including, which people, exactly?
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. In the United States: a one-year subscription (four issues) is $40; a two-year subscription (eight issues) is $66.
Photography provided Rashid Johnson with his first tool for exploring what has become an intriguing and speculative investigation of the ambiguities and revelations inherent in analyses of identity. His personal identity, African-American identity, the history of representations of African-Americans, popular culture and identity (with a special fascination for the rhythms of 1970s blaxploitation and kung-fu films), and more, all congeal into an energetic acknowledgement that constructing identity is a largely unstable, though provocative, activity, both inevitable and somehow by nature always incomplete.
In 1925 Alfred Stieglitz did something unusual: he pointed his camera directly toward the clouds overhead. It was the first of his six-year Equivalents series: images of inky, horizonless skies. In that single imaginative gesture, Stieglitz produced what is widely considered to be the first abstract photograph.
On the seventy-fifth anniversary of Russia's 1917 October Revolution, many newspapers published a photograph showing the masses storming the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. It was not a historical document—a fact little-known today—but a still image from the film October, shot by Sergei Eisenstein in 1928.
Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra's memorable portraits of youths by the edge of the sea were first exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art nearly fifteen years ago, but since then U.S. attention to her work has been eclipsed by institutional homages to her male German photographic colleagues of roughly the same generation: Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Andreas Gursky.
For several years I worked on a project driven by the desire to run away from society. After all this time as an imaginary castaway, I was hungry to be back around other people. So earlier this year I called up my writer friend Brad Zellar, and asked him to join me on short assignments near where we live in Minnesota and a few other spots.
Utopia is invisible. Only the utopian can see it. Take, for instance, Nathan Meeker. In 1844, soon after graduating from Oberlin, Meeker joined the Trumbull Phalanx, a community of two hundred fifty men and women in the wilds of eastern Ohio that was modeled on the ideas of the French visionary Charles Fourier.
WALKER EVANS American Photographs (Museum of Modern Art, 1938)
ROBERT FRANK The Americans (Delpire/Grove, 1958/59)
JOEL STERNFELD American Prospects (Times Books/Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1987)
JACOB HOLDT Amerikanske billeder/American Pictures (Informations Vorlag/American Pictures Foundation, 1977/85)
DOUG RICKARD A New American Picture (White Press/Schaden, 2010)
Modern America has been a project, an experiment. As such, its self-image is a matter of some importance. The critic Van Wyck Brooks once wrote of "the immense, vague cloud-canopy of idealism" that spread over the national culture in the nineteenth century. This was a self-image of sorts, pervasive and persistent.
The following interview between Taryn Simon and curator Roxana Marcoci took place earlier this year, on the occasion of Simon's exhibition A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The design and layout of these pages were conceived by Simon.
Photography used to be a blue-collar job. You were on your feet all day, out in the elements, hands in chemical baths. Now it's white-collar; in front of a monitor. Still I went ahead and bought a digital camera, thinking it'd make my world time more fluid.
I see them everywhere. They are my young students or the children of friends: New Age hippies who play hard and work hard learning trades, being open to the world, like musicians and artists. "Traveling kids," Kate calls them. "Nomadic souls who feel restless when they are still."
In 1985, as the world appeared to have survived the dire prophecies of George Orwell's 1984 (published in 1949), cultural critic Neil Postman pointed out that perhaps the truer and more sinister vision was actually an earlier one expressed by Aldous Huxley in his 1932 book Brave New World: What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.
Hank Willis Thomas is concerned with the representation, display, and reception of imagery, as well as the wider social context in which art and culture are experienced. As a curator, writer, photographer—and sometime collaborator with the artist—I am familiar with how such works challenge and expand our contemporary understanding of politics, history, and memory, and I see how his work engages these issues.
In his 1984 collection Photography Against the Grain: Essays and Photoworks, 1973-1983, Allan Sekula, photographer, critic, and now filmmaker, challenged the authority and power of photographic images, and insisted on the use of the camera as a tool for social transformation.
Four years into the Obama administration, the signature institutions and covert actions of the war we used to call the "war on terror" have not gone away. From the CIA's ongoing renditions program to the reconvened military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay, the paradigmatic institutions of the George W. Bush administration's extra-legal wars have now become so entrenched in U.S. political life that they are hardly noticed.
For many years, my work has been focused on the themes of war, its myths, and its memories. I was born in Vietnam; my family and I were evacuated to the United States at the end of the war, in 1975. From 1995 to 2005 I created three series—Vietnam, Small Wars, and 29 Palms—related to different aspects of war, from its impact on the life and landscape of my home to communities of Vietnam War reenactors to American soldiers readying for deployment to Iraq.
ON BRUCE MCBROOM’S PHOTOGRAPH OF FARRAH FAWCETT, 1976
Is there any circumstance in which a man can write about a photograph of a woman and remain an unindicted co-conspirator? Is there any circumstance in which the comments of a man on a photograph of a woman are not, to some extent, unwarranted?