Aperture Summer 2021

Founded in 1952, Aperture is an essential guide to the world of contemporary photography that combines the finest writing with inspiring photographic portfolios. Each issue examines one theme explored in “Words,” focused on the best writing surrounding contemporary photography, and “Pictures,” featuring immersive portfolios and artist projects.

United States
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in this issue

3 min

Made in L.A. The fifth iteration of the Hammer Museum’s biennial Made in L.A. exhibition is supplemented by the phrase “a version” because its cocurators, Lauren Mackler and Myriam Ben Salah, are preoccupied with the uncanny power of doubling. A second version of the exhibition is on view simultaneously nearby at the Huntington, where all thirty artists featured in Made in L.A. are showing another version of their work—a twin exhibition that, at turns, duplicates or debates the theses of the first. Mackler and Ben Salah cite “horror” as one of the biennial’s key themes and appropriately include Diane Severin Nguyen’s chromatic, severe photographs of natural and synthetic fauna, wounds, and goo. Nguyen, Mackler says, “was really cognizant of the policing of the invisible, or the morality around germaphobia, and the…

3 min
day jobs

In 1991, when Susan Meiselas met displaced Kurdish families in Iraq, she found herself gravitating to their home villages, which had been destroyed by Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign. She began to ask, How do you picture a history you didn’t live through yourself? The collaborative archive that emerged from Kurdistan had its roots in an unlikely place and era in Meiselas’s life—the American South of the 1970s. The early ’70s was a time when Meiselas says she was “beginning to wrestle with whether to become a photographer or a teacher.” Few paths existed for doing both. Photography was still rarely taught outside communications classes, and Meiselas, who had earned education degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and Harvard University, felt alone and mentorless at age twenty-three, in 1971. So she made it…

4 min

There has been increased foot traffic in public spaces over the past year. As the pandemic set in, with lockdown restrictions put in place, loosened, and then put in place again, people turned to their parks as an easy salve: a place to work out, take a socially distanced walk with friends, and even cruise. For some, the pandemic marks the beginning of their relationship with the outdoor spaces in their vicinity—providing an opportunity to get out and get fresh air beyond the four walls that have boxed in their Zoom calls. For others, the connection goes back much further. For much of his life, Donavon Smallwood found respite in New York’s Central Park. It has been his stomping grounds, of sorts, a short walk from where he lives in East…

5 min

“My work as a photographer has always been informed and inspired by a wide range of other expressive forms,” Dawoud Bey says. The artist began his creative life as a drummer, versed in the articulations and improvisations of jazz. Whether percussive or visual, Bey’s work is fine-tuned to the historic and quotidian rhythms of Black life. Since the mid-1970s, he has crafted disarmingly serene portraits and psychologically rich landscapes, moving between the side streets and thoroughfares of Harlem, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, and the dense, unmarked trails of the Underground Railroad. With a meticulous subtlety, Bey offers clear-eyed views of America, past and present, buoyed, as always, by Black grace. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme, 1965 Hearing John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme in the late 1960s was the first…

9 min
looking out/looking in delhi

We are described into corners, and then we have to describe our way out of corners.—Salman Rushdie, in an interview with W. L. Webb In April 2019, as the general elections in India dominated the media, an international team of astronomers published the first photograph of a black hole, silhouetted against a disc of glowing gas surrounding this cosmic void, the threshold beyond which not even light can escape. The image showed us what we thought could never be seen, almost two centuries after the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a camera obscura to take the world’s first photograph, looking out from his second-story workroom. These acts of imaging have generated a radical, fundamental warping of the space-time of human consciousness and triggered a cultural “event horizon,” by mapping the…

13 min
arundhati roy the city as a novel

“A novel gives a writer the freedom to be as complicated as she wants—to move through worlds, languages, and time, through societies, communities, and politics,” Arundhati Roy recently wrote. Having risen to international fame with her Booker Prize–winning novel The God of Small Things (1997), Roy is a singular voice in contemporary literature, producing riveting works of fiction, along with a prodigious output of essays that address class, gender, and politics with a moral clarity and urgency that reflect her role as a committed activist. Born in a small town in Northeastern India, Roy moved to Delhi to study architecture, a background that would shape her work as a writer. Here, the filmmaker and essayist Shohini Ghosh speaks with Roy about the links between the space of a novel and the…