Aperture Winter 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

Observing the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Truman Capote remarked, in a now famous quote, that the acclaimed photographer was “dancing along the pavement like an agitated dragonfly, three Leicas swinging from straps around his neck, a fourth one hugged to his eye: click-clickclick (the camera seems a part of his own body), clicking away with a joyous intensity, a religious absorption.” As Capote makes clear, the act of photographing is a performance. Indeed, from the early years of the medium, with Hippolyte Bayard’s 1840 staged Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man, to contemporary artists using Instagram and other social-media platforms, the impulse to perform is threaded throughout photography’s history and evolution. This issue, a collaboration between Aperture and Performa, the nonprofit organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in visual…

4 min
collectors the musicians

Devonté Hynes This photograph is from Flurina Rothenberger’s 2015 book I Love to Dress Like I Am Coming from Somewhere and I Have a Place to Go. It spans ten years of her photography (2004–14) in Africa. I was in the SoHo bookstore McNally Jackson with my friend who was buying it as a birthday gift for someone else. The images were instantly striking to me. Whereas other books and photographs of similar subject matter can come across as glorification or cultural tourism, I did not get that sense from looking at these pictures. I felt genuine respect and care for her subjects. This photograph, besides being visually so strong with its shapes and pastel colors, is full of so much joy and creativity. It shows a side of Africa that is…

5 min

Robert Cumming (b. 1943) has long identified as a painter, sculptor, photographer, mail-art practitioner, and performer. His multidisciplinary tendencies reach an apex in his photographs, often of careful constructions, which are laced with mystery and mischievous humor. Whether scoring a toast-shaped incision into a watermelon—one of his best-known images—or building a staircase to nowhere, Cumming frequently probes the limits of the imagination. “Life can be weird,” Cumming wrote to us recently. “While I was putting the finishing touches on this piece, Massachusetts General Hospital asked me if I would consider donating my brain for neurological research.” Aperture will publish a book of his photographic work next spring. Bubble chamber photographs Over the years, I’ve tried to keep up with advances in physics. The scale physics describes is so infinitesimally small and at…

3 min
on portraits

In this regular column, Dyer considers how a range of figures have been photographed. Here, he reflects on an image of the influential curator John Szarkowski. Geoff Dyer’s new book Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? will be published by Pantheon in the spring. For students of photography, this picture is of obvious and multilayered interest. Taken by Lee Friedlander in 1975, it shows John Szarkowski, head of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, striking a pose as Garry Winogrand takes his picture. So the organizer of the groundbreaking 1967 New Documents show at MoMA, and two of the three photographers featured in it, each play a part in this document. (The third photographer, Diane Arbus, had killed herself four years previously.) For students of tennis,…

5 min

In these classic volumes, art and science became one. The Vision + Value Series An electron micrograph of a virus. Ansel Adams’s photograph of magnetic core memory. A photograph of a thirteenth-century mosaic in Ravenna. What do these three images have in common? All of them look uncannily alike, and resemble patterns or graphs that emerge from mathematical exercises. And all are found in the Vision + Value series (1965–66), edited by Hungarian artist, photographer, designer, and theorist Gyorgy Kepes. In six beautifully illustrated volumes he sought to compile “the best knowledge of a given time.” Kepes explained how he admired the vast advances in the creation and circulation of knowledge that had taken place in the previous several decades, yet he lamented the separation between the eye, heart, and brain. His solution…

12 min
for the camera

From the first days of the first photographs, those taking the pictures and those being pictured were fully aware of the performative potential of the new enterprise. Consider the strangely stilted tableaux that William Henry Fox Talbot arranged on the grounds of his home, Lacock Abbey, in the 1840s: his friends and family posing as, well, friends and family, but nevertheless acting their own roles as best they could in bright sunlight under the cold eye of the camera. These, surely, were some of the first people ever to “pose” as themselves, as countless others have done for the camera ever since. But as well as performances aimed at the representation of some kind of natural life, there are also, in the earliest photographic experiments, something that we can recognize…