Family Pictures When Roy DeCarava set out in mid-twentieth-century Harlem to undertake what would become the landmark photobook The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955), he employed photography as “a creative expression to meditate on everyday life and family,” says Drew Sawyer, head of exhibitions and curator of photography at the Columbus Museum of Art.
The remedy for a common ailment from an illustrious cast of artists
The cure to pimples is apparently all about apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, vitamin E, and vitamin B. I've never tried it, but there’s something sisterly about how earnestly this concoction is offered up at the end of Cookie Mueller’s How to Get Rid of Pimples (1984).
A photographer reclaims the age-old performance of female sexuality
When she first moved to Chicago nine years ago, as an MFA candidate at Columbia College, the photographer Natalie Krick was intent on making what she describes as “deceptive portraits.” “I was interested in how the body was rendered through artifice,” she told me recently from Seattle, where she now lives and works.
In the early 1990s, the British artist Gillian Wearing stopped passersby in South London, asked them to jot down what was on their minds on a large sheet of paper, and then snapped a photograph. "I'm desperate," a young, well-dressed man wrote.
“Photography saved my life,” says Zackary Drucker, the guest editor of this issue of Aperture. As an artist, trans activist, and producer of the acclaimed Amazon series Transparent, Drucker has spent her career investigating the manifold intersections of images and identity, but her grasp of photography’s transformative power was formed early on.
Kate Bornstein in Conversation with Zackary Drucker
Kate Bornstein is a gender outlaw. Decades before Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair, Bornstein was pushing for a radical vision of gender beyond the binary. In 1989, with daytime talk shows among the only mainstream arenas to address nonnormative identities, she appeared on Geraldo in a segment titled “Transsexual Regrets: Who’s Sorry Now?”
Can sensational news images, mug shots, and scientific records become pictures of trans resistance?
On August 12, 1876, two woodcut images, derived from photographs taken of Frances Thompson in jail, appeared in The Day’s Doings, a sensationalistic, nationally circulated, illustrated weekly newspaper published in New York. Thompson, a fortune-teller and former slave, had come to national attention a decade earlier when she testified before a congressional committee, along with four other African American women, about being gang-raped by a group of white men during antiblack rioting in Memphis in 1866.
A tycoon and philanthropist, Reed Erickson funded pioneering research in transgender visibility—and his personal photo-album has become a rare history of trans manhood.
Over a decade ago, when searching for a classic design for my next tattoo, I came across an image that startled me. A well-known 1950s British tattoo artist sat with his shirt off, a tattoo of a bullfight on his chest, and other tattoo artists were arrayed behind him.
Had you been in Europe during the 1970s, you might have been entranced by an exotic girl, in a darkly lit bar, drenched in blood-red ostrich feathers. Marlow La Fantastique gave shows from Hamburg to Berlin, then throughout towns in Italy and France.
In 1952, the New York Daily News published a front-page story that stopped the world in its tracks: "Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” George Jorgensen, Jr., from New York, had traveled to Denmark for sex reassignment surgery and returned—elegant, poised, and triumphant—as Christine Jorgensen.
When I asked Jess T. Dugan about her early inspirations, she cited Catherine Opie and Robert Mapplethorpe— photographers who, in her words, were "responsible for asserting and representing identity.” For two of her recent series, Every Breath We Drew (2011-ongoing) and To Survive on This Shore (2013-ongoing), Dugan has produced portraits that visually map the various racialized and classed landscapes of gender nonconformity in the United States.
When the trans activist Claudia Pía Baudracco presented her testimony to Argentina’s Parliament in Buenos Aires in November 2011, she called upon senators to consider the history: "When Afro-descendants experienced discrimination and went home, their parents offered them support because they had suffered from the same discrimination,” Baudracco argued.
"Creepy, exciting, and a little weird” is how Amos Mac, a Los Angeles photographer, describes slinking into the American Civil Liberties Union offices in Manhattan late one night in 2013 to shoot the artist and musician Juliana Huxtable, who worked there at the time.
According to Mexico’s Zapotec social customs, queer boys are expected to wear feminine clothing and makeup starting in childhood or adolescence. As they mature, they adopt the social roles of women and become muxes, a type of third gender favored in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
On the surface, Josué Azor’s recent photographs are heirlooms of a group’s expressions of joy. Upon closer look, however, these photographs also provide a telling glimpse into the coping mechanisms of the Haitian LGBT community, which has long endured the torment of social ridicule and religious prohibition.
Twenty years after an influential exhibition, a curator considers the enduring images of gender performance.
This year is the twentieth anniversary of Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography. In 1995, an exhibition proposal I submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts received one of the last exhibition grants to be awarded before the NEA was gutted by right-wing Republicans as part of the culture wars of the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Since her searing debut at the 1995 Whitney Biennial, Catherine Opie has deployed photography to make the LGBT community visible. At times, she has focused on S&M practices—her signature Self-Portrait/Pervert (1994) will still make some viewers wince.
Every year, the eighteen-day festival of Aravan, based upon a myth from the legendary Hindu epic the Mahabharata, sees thousands of members of the transgender community gather in the Indian village of Koovagam in Tamil Nadu. The rituals begin just as theatrically as they end: with a reenactment of the marriage of Lord Krishna (in the female form of Mohini) to the warrior Aravan, followed by a mourning ceremony in which Krishna/Mohini is widowed when Aravan is killed.
The South African photographer Sabelo Mlangeni was midway through describing his itinerant early years in Johannesburg, a city he has called home since 2001, when he suddenly remarked, "The other day I was thinking about how sexuality influences a photographer.”
Kiev between dusk and dawn. The city has gone to sleep, but in its brutalist buildings, nightclubs, parks, and alleys a new scene is coming to life. I first visited the Ukrainian capital thirteen years ago, in 2004. The Orange Revolution had just toppled the unpopular authoritarian post-Soviet regime.
Reports of the death of downtown have been greatly exaggerated. Every week, creative renegades of eighteen or twenty or twentyfive flock to New York—outcasts in their hometowns, seeking a place to belong. Not long ago, Ethan James Green was one of them; he then became one of their more stylish chroniclers.
Stories from the Aperture community— publications, exhibitions, and events
In the Garden How are the immaculate gardens of Versailles, the raw beauty of a forest, a typical suburban lawn, and a sunflower maze related? “I have been engaged with gardening for almost as long as I have been interested in photography,” says Sarah McNear, coauthor, with Jamie Allen, of The Photographer in the Garden.
“All drag queens want is love,” says Sabrina at the beginning of Frank Simon’s 1968 documentary The Queen. Following a group of drag performers and trans women preparing for the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant at Town Hall, in New York, Simon’s film charts the lengths to which they go to attain adoration.