Aperture Winter 2016

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
redux brian wallis on leonard freed’s black in white america, 1968

From its stark white title on a black cover to its final text predicting riots in Washington, D.C., Leonard Freed’s photobook Black in White America (1968) is a blistering and prescient vision of race in America. Compiled at the height of racial tension and civil rights demonstrations, bracketed by the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968, Freed’s volume is a penetrating journey through a vast terra incognita for white folks, depicting, in words and images, the other side of the tracks from Harlem to New Orleans to the Sea Islands of South Carolina. As a young white New Yorker who had mostly been living in Europe for the previous decade, Freed traveled the byways of race in America like a foreigner, with an air…

4 min
spotlight eli durst

Eli Durst spent his summers during high school and college assembling asylum applications at the Austin immigration clinic where his mother works as a legal advocate, often for refugees from Eritrea. Durst took passport photographs and met dozens of people who had crossed the U.S. border from Mexico after landing there by circuitous journeys and illegal means, fleeing Eritrea’s authoritarian government and standstill economy. Yet, some Eritreans spoke wistfully about the underrecognized allure of Asmara, the nation’s capital and a time capsule of early twentieth-century colonial Italian architecture. In the 1930s, following four decades of colonization, Italian fascist forces imposed the charge of futurism on Asmara through hundreds of new buildings, often shaped like the era’s latest technology: airplanes, radios, trains. The invasion of British troops in 1941, during World War…

6 min

Through photography, video, performance, and cultural criticism, Martha Rosler has rigorously probed a host of sociopolitical questions with signature intelligence and wit. From her classic video Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), which humorously critiqued women’s role in society, to her canny photomontages that juxtapose scenes of American domestic comforts with images of foreign wars, she has used her artwork to shine a hard light on urgent realities. Roland Barthes, “The Great Family of Man,” 1957 In his book Mythologies, Roland Barthes compellingly dissects The Family of Man, the encyclopedic photography exhibition that achieved great resonance when it was featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. Barthes’s unsparing analysis revealed, despite the show’s perhaps laudable aspirations, the sentimentality of its anthropological premise—in which all people, no matter how different, are fundamentally…

4 min
dispatches athens

Art flourishes in times of adversity. In the charged political landscape of Athens, austerity measures and the prevailing division in the European Union have taken an irreversible toll on the city often referred to as the cradle of democracy. Yet, there is a pulse of creative inspiration and artistic production. On ghostlike streets where businesses are closing down and rental signs are ubiquitous, new artist-run spaces have emerged and collectives are being formed. Depression Era is one of the products of this condition. Formed in 2011 and with almost thirty members to date, the collective operates in a unique format: its members are professional artists, photojournalists, architects, activists, and filmmakers who are joining forces in their free time. By resurrecting and embracing the value of communal ideals, strangers from different backgrounds…

15 min
on feminism

More than one hundred years before Laura Mulvey coined the phrase “the male gaze” in the 1970s, pioneers of photography such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, were fully aware of what it meant to author one’s own image. The abolitionist Sojourner Truth deployed her portrait for the cause of freedom. “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance,” her cartes-de-visite read. A medium that could fabricate denigrating notions of gender and identity would also be wielded in the service of self-expression and personal transformation. As Julia Bryan-Wilson writes in these pages, “Female photographers have long been riveted by the structures of gender—its theatrics, its stereotypes—in order to explode them.” This issue focuses on intergenerational dialogues, debates, and strategies of feminism in photography and considers the immense…

19 min
modern women

David Campany: You have all been involved with exhibitions and publications dedicated to women photographers who began their working lives between the wars. The 1920s and 1930s, particularly in Europe, still loom large in any history of photography because of the flowering of various modernisms and avant-gardes, and, of course, the expansion of the illustrated mass media and the photographic book. Perhaps less discussed is the rich exchange between these fields. Photographers moved easily right across visual culture. And it’s notable how many of the most dynamic figures were women: Germaine Krull, Laure Albin-Guillot, Florence Henri, Grete Stern, and many others. Why was this? Was the medium open to them in a way the other arts were not? Was it to do with photography at that point being a medium…