Aperture Fall 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
Aperture Foundation
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in this issue

3 min
agenda exhibitions to see

Liz Johnson Artur “A trace of human sensibility” is what is preserved in Liz Johnson Artur’s of life of love of sex of movement of hope, her solo exhibition at Foam that pairs photographic works with sculptural elements, all of which are calibrated to the textures and allures of everyday life. In one image, the grainy silhouette of a man in profile, his arms crossed, would appear inconspicuously commonplace if not for the shadow of a mysterious protrusion—a mythical tail? another encroaching figure? something yet more sinister?—that demands a double take and subtly destabilizes the viewer’s gaze on what was almost familiar. Through a series of site-specific installations commissioned by Foam, Artur once more crafts a visual world marked by graceful, provocative poses and a delightful streak of enigma. Liz Johnson Artur:…

3 min
day jobs

Catherine Opie loves to work. She’s been at it since age six, when she began accompanying her dad to the Ohio family business, OP Craft, on weekends, “earning a penny for every cork I put in a salt or pepper shaker, half a cent for every key chain I put together,” Opie told me recently. A self-described gearhead, she was enthralled by the factory’s machinery, captivated by the process of building things, and enamored of watching her piggy bank grow. By age eight, Opie had set up her own business. Seeing potential in factory waste, she collected it. “I’d sit on our back patio with my little ax and chop reject pieces of basswood, stuff them into recycled paper bags, then go around the neighborhood in the winter with my wagon selling…

5 min

To be in a nightclub. Bodies moving in rhythm. The smells—sweat, cigarettes, that sweet tang of a smoke machine. And the beat. The beat, which rewires your movements, your mind. The sway, the ecstasy of release. In that moment, you are saved. Such memories have been the stuff of lockdown pipe dreams. It is, therefore, both diverting and bittersweet to browse two recently published books on clubbing—one expansive in its broad geography and history, the other contrastingly specific. Ten Cities: Clubbing in Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin, Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon 1960–March 2020 (2020) is an ambitious record of these select music scenes. Dave Swindells’s Ibiza ’89 (2020) brings together images Swindells made on a short magazine assignment in the summer of 1989, sparked by the influence of the island…

5 min

In the introduction to his latest book, See/Saw: Looking at Photographs (2021), Geoff Dyer reflects that writing on pictures has been a “pleasurable sideline for the past couple of decades.” He admits that he hasn’t really ever had a main line, only a “multitude of sidelines.” Dyer’s extensive, and eclectic, bibliography suggests as much: he has penned titles on everything from D. H. Lawrence to Andrei Tarkovsky to life aboard an aircraft carrier. His writing on photography is associative, humorous, and sometimes idiosyncratic, while remaining indebted to a background in literature and figures like John Berger. This realm of study can be seen in Dyer’s reflections on Eugène Atget, Roy DeCarava, Dayanita Singh, and others, where close reading becomes close looking. L. Subramaniam, Le Violon de L’Inde du Sud, 1980 This was…

1 min

In the introduction to his popular 1980 television series Cosmos, the astronomer Carl Sagan walks along a rocky headland, illuminated by a magic-hour glow, and ruminates on human fascination with the infinite vastness of the universe. The size and age of the cosmos may be beyond our comprehension, he reflects, but we are driven, nonetheless, to contemplate the great mysteries of our origins. Sagan notes that this allure is not just about the awesome and the unknowable—it is also a story about us, a story about people. This isn’t an issue about astronomy, but rather one that explores the desire to better understand the textures of our local universes, the worlds that artists themselves create—from Deana Lawson’s monumental staged portraits tracing cosmologies of the African diaspora to Michael Schmidt’s acute observations…

16 min
deana lawson the conjurer

As this is written in early spring, Deana Lawson has two exhibitions up in Manhattan, one at the Guggenheim Museum, where she is presenting her show Centropy as the 2020 Hugo Boss Prize winner, and another at Sikkema Jenkins, her gallery in Chelsea. A third major show is upcoming this fall at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. Lawson’s recognition as a profound orchestrator of convulsively charismatic images of Black subjects was inevitable—not least because of her unique depictions of Black folk in domestic spaces in a time of Black pictorial hypervisibility. She has stated that her work “negotiates a knowledge of selfhood through a profoundly corporeal dimension; the photographs speaking to the ways that sexuality, violence, family, and social status may be written, sometimes literally, upon the body.” On another occasion,…