Aperture Winter 2017

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.

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in this issue

2 min
exhibitions to see

Family Pictures When Roy DeCarava set out in mid-twentiethcentury Harlem to undertake what would become the landmark photobook The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955), he employed photography as “a creative expression to meditate on everyday life and family,” says Drew Sawyer, head of exhibitions and curator of photography at the Columbus Museum of Art. The artists featured in the exhibition Family Pictures—LaToya Ruby Frazier, Deana Lawson, Carrie Mae Weems, John Edmonds, and Gordon Parks among them—work in a similar vein, pushing against traditional notions of documentary photography in radical and intimate depictions of domestic life. Family Pictures at the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, February 16–May 20, 2018 Susan Meiselas The upcoming retrospective of Susan Meiselas’s work, a coproduction of Jeu de Paume, Paris, and Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, curated by Carles Guerra…

3 min
rediscovered books and writings

The cure to pimples is apparently all about apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, vitamin E, and vitamin B. I’ve never tried it, but there’s something sisterly about how earnestly this concoction is offered up at the end of Cookie Mueller’s How to Get Rid of Pimples (1984). Published in the series Top Stories, the book feels part Village Voice classified ad, part John Waters movie, and part punk takedown of 1950s women’s magazines. Top Stories stopped publishing in 1991, and the New York of low-rent downtown walk-ups with glamorous tenants that the book conjures is long gone, but How to Get Rid of Pimples remains a classic of underground New York. Top Stories was edited by photographer Anne Turyn. The series started in 1979 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo…

4 min
natalie krick

When she first moved to Chicago nine years ago, as an MFA candidate at Columbia College, the photographer Natalie Krick was intent on making what she describes as “deceptive portraits.” “I was interested in how the body was rendered through artifice,” she told me recently from Seattle, where she now lives and works. “I was interested in how I could style people and make them up. Their gender would become ambiguous, with so much ‘femininity’ applied onto them.” Krick placed ads for potential models on Craigslist and showed up at the apartments of strangers, laden with bags of clothes and beauty products. The process resembled something in between a fashion shoot and a blind date, inherently awkward and immediately intimate. “I’d meet them for the first time and give them makeovers,”…

5 min

In the early 1990s, the British artist Gillian Wearing stopped passersby in South London, asked them to jot down what was on their minds on a large sheet of paper, and then snapped a photograph. “I’m desperate,” a young, well-dressed man wrote. Winner of the Turner Prize in 1997, Wearing, by eliciting confessions from her subjects in her early photographs and videos, anticipated the rise of reality television. In self-portraits made since 2008, she gestures to the masters of portraiture, posing in uncanny, custom-made masks as Diane Arbus, Claude Cahun, and August Sander, the artists who together form her “spiritual family.” For Wearing, identity is a costume, a pose, a performance. Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio, 1919 Winesburg, Ohio is about outsiders who are all living in the same town and all misunderstood.…

2 min
future gender

“Photography saved my life,” says Zackary Drucker, the guest editor of this issue of Aperture. As an artist, trans activist, and producer of the acclaimed Amazon series Transparent, Drucker has spent her career investigating the manifold intersections of images and identity, but her grasp of photography’s transformative power was formed early on. “As an adolescent, I discovered that by taking a Polaroid picture of myself dressed as a girl, I could escape the confines of boyhood. I have continued to use photography as a way to verify my existence and to see myself, my relationships, my evolution.” When we asked Drucker to guest edit this issue, she set out to put the “transgender tipping point”—marked by the visibility of public figures including Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner— in context. Drucker has…

13 min
gender is a playground

Kate Bornstein is a gender outlaw. Decades before Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair, Bornstein was pushing for a radical vision of gender beyond the binary. In 1989, with daytime talk shows among the only mainstream arenas to address nonnormative identities, she appeared on Geraldo in a segment titled “Transsexual Regrets: Who’s Sorry Now?” The show was meant to sensationalize Bornstein, a transgender lesbian, but she wasn’t having it. “I was the one who wasn’t sorry,” she later said. In her performances and plays, such as Hidden: A Gender (1989), and in her groundbreaking, genre-defying 1994 book Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, Bornstein writes with characteristic wit, candor, and generosity about topics from gender confirmation surgery to trans activism. Throughout her life and career,…