Aperture Spring 2015

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

Why an issue on queer photography? The going narrative states that, after the culture wars of the early 1990s, we moved into an era in which sexual difference mattered progressively less, when the fight against AIDS no longer defined the gay community, and when same-sex marriage had been approved in many parts of the United States and in a handful of countries around the world. But considering the volume of recent photography we’ve encountered that is pointedly engaged with questions of queer identity and experiences—as well as work by curators and writers who are revisiting past figures and projects—it seems that queer is back on the agenda, or rather, that it never left. The public conversation about what it means to be queer (which arguably began with Stonewall in 1969)…

2 min
collectors: the graphic designers

Stefan Sagmeister The last big photobook I bought was Martin Schoeller’s Identical, which must be his most significant work yet. Martin’s hyperrealism proves particularly effective when applied to the subjects of twins and triplets. The act of comparison becomes the main modus of communication between the photographs and the viewer. Every pore acquires significance, every scar tells a story of different lives lived. His portraits of twins tip the debate over nature versus nurture clearly toward the former. Stefan Sagmeister has worked for the Rolling Stones, the Talking Heads, Lou Reed, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. He is founding partner of Sagmeister & Walsh. David Reinfurt This photograph by Lily Healey embeds multiple times and, since hanging it in my hallway, it keeps me thinking. In January 2013, Healey was working toward…

5 min

Through her photography, An-My Lê explores the complex relationships between landscape, memory, war, and spectacle. Aperture has published two books of her work: Small Wars(2005), and more recently,Events Ashore(2014). Lê is a professor of photography at Bard College, and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2012. Adam Phillips’s Winnicott (1988) A great introduction to the work of Donald Winnicott, an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst whose theories on object relations remain extremely influential. His ideas about real life and descriptions of less-than-perfect mothers have been clarifying for me. He believed that the way to be a good mother was to be a goodenough mother. Women artists who teach, parent, and manage to keep working learn to have an answer prepared for the inevitable question: “How do you do it?” My answer: “I don’t.” Matthew…

5 min

Barbara P. Norfleet’s The Champion Pig Brian Sholis Let’s begin with a useful generalization. During the mid-1970s, Museum of Modern Art photography curator John Szarkowski epitomized photographic orthodoxy at American museums. It was a high-modernist moment: Those sitting in judgment seats appreciated form before content and believed that everything a picture could communicate resided within the picture itself. As Szarkowski phrased it in his introduction to The Photographer’s Eye (1966), he wanted to know “what photographs look like, and … why they look that way.” Barbara P. Norfleet, a newly installed curator at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, recognized the brilliance of Szarkowski’s book. But, having come to photography after earning a PhD in social relations and teaching social psychology, she had a different angle. What photographs look…

13 min
queer photography?

Vince Aletti The first queer photograph I ever saw excited and confused me. It was at a newsstand in the Jersey Shore town where my family spent the week of my father’s summer vacation, sometime in the late ’50s. Tucked between bodybuilder magazines like Strength & Health were some pocket-sized pamphlets with nearly naked men on their covers and titles like Tomorrow’s Man, Body Beautiful, and Fizeek. In one of them, I came across a picture of two dark-eyed young guys—they looked like regulars on Bandstand—in nothing but stripped-down jock straps, one slung across the other’s shoulder like a trophy. It was titled Victor and Vanquished, and I stared at it, mesmerized, until my mother called me away. I had no words for what that picture meant, certainly no classical references…

13 min
gay semiotics revisited

In 1977, San Francisco photographer Hal Fischer produced his photo-text project Gay Semiotics, a seminal examination of the “hanky code” used to signal sexual preferences of cruising gay men in the Castro district of San Francisco. Fischer’s pictures dissected the significance of colored bandannas worn in jeans pockets, as well as how the placement of keys and earrings might telegraph passive or active roles. He also photographed a series of “gay looks”—from hippie to leather to cowboy to jock—with text that pointed out key elements of queer street-style. Begun as a series of large prints and then collected in a book published by NFS Press, Fischer’s project was both a serious study of vernacular queer behavior as well as an irreverent take on structuralism. For this issue, art historian Julia…