Fotograf Magazine

Aperture Conversations: 1985 to Present

Two years ago, the New York publishing house Aperture celebrated the 65th anniversary of its existence. This event was an incentive to issue a publication containing extensive selection of 71 interviews with photographers, curators, critics, historians, editors, and artists from the past 30 years. All interviews were published in their original form with a new introductory text characterizing the interviewees. Most of the interviews came from archival issues of Aperture magazine, other publications, and online platforms of the publishing house. Given the scale of the project, the editors decided not to publish the pictures and preferred a wider range of authors, from well-known classics of photography to contemporary emerging artists. The interviews are listed alphabetically without any thematic or chronological order. Their character is very different; some interviews map only a short period of time, while others focus on the life-long career of the interviewees who also have various opinions. There is a proponent of photography as a special medium, which has its own clearly defined rules, and there are reflections on the meaning and future of photography in the context of other artistic disciplines. Sometimes, the artists discuss the work of other authors, revealing their own way of thinking. Others focus more on autobiographical issues, while the medium of photography fades into the background; sometimes photography is the main topic. Although some interviews are older, they do not lack topicality. Their selection maps the broad spectrum of approaches and reflects the current view of the medium of photography. 

Traditional documentary and journalistic photography is represented, for example, by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who not only talks about his work, but also reveals some less known facts about his life. Photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia highlights the inconsistent legacy of Garry Winogrand: on the one hand, his work seems obsolete; on the other hand, it is evident that it still appeals to a number of photographers. Allen Ginsberg speaks not only of his own photographic work, but also presents an interesting insight into the work of Robert Frank. Robert Adams presents a sophisticated approach to the medium of photography and his distinctive vision of what a photographic publication should look like.

Don McCullin speaks of landscape photographs he took in an attempt to escape the fate of classic war photography. Yet he returns to the war in the interview as well, highlighting the differences between classical and contemporary photographs of war. Photographer An-My Lê represents a completely different type of documentary practice since she combines the techniques of documentary and staged photography. The interview reveals the methods of capturing war situations on the brink of reality and fiction. Japanese documentary photography is represented by Daido Moriyama who thinks that photographic work should not conform to a particular topic, although it seems unthinkable in to our traditions. For Moriyama, topics are a limiting factor. He sees photography as a medium that provokes thoughts. 

The interview with classic colour photographer Stephen Shore is topical even after many years. Shore presents his work and inspiration from the period of his beginnings and describes his collaboration with Warhol. Alec Soth, representing contemporary documentary photography, brings an authentic account of his work on the project of suburban communities.

Interviews with curators and historians of photography present entirely different views of photography. Quentin Bajac, former curator of the MOMA photographic collections, favours a wider interconnection of various media, including photography, to prevent stagnation. In the interview, he deals with the history and future of the collection as well as the planned exhibition thematising a photographic studio (which was successfully held since then). Critic and curator RoseLee Goldberg and Roxana Marcoci discuss photographic documentation of performances. Marcoci uses the example of Marina Abramović to demonstrate the idea that it is not the photographer, but the creator of the performance who is important. Visual artist and composer Christian Marclay presents a broader context to highlight the sound dimension of images. To him, a camera is a notebook that registers images, which can be later interpreted in relation to the sound. Taryn Simon does not focus only on the medium of photography either; she examines also the ethical and social context and she is interested in the invisible space between the text and the image. In the interview, she defines her medium as a set of graphic design, photography, and text. 

Jeff Wall, representing staged photography, deals with the current state of the medium, its conventions and the artist’s freedom. Gregory Crewdson describes the whole process of the work, which is often, like in Jeff Wall, of a cinematic character. James Welling talks about creative photography based on the idea of travelling through the media of structuralist filmmaker Hollis Frampton. The gender issues are addressed, for example, in the interview with Ishiuchi Miyako who describes the circumstances of the foundation of Main magazine. Thomas Ruff talks about the inspiring photograms by Arthur Siegl and his series of large-scale photograms created on a virtual tour, using the latest technologies. Catherine Opie, a member of the LGBT community, describes the realization of The Modernist, an analogy to Chris Marker’s film La Jetée, made as a series of photographic images. The mix of various approaches also includes an excellent interview with Marcello Mastroianni about paparazzi and his cooperation with Federico Fellini. 

The book will delight everyone, not only keen readers.

 

Harris, Melissa and Michael Famighetti. Aperture conversations 1985 to the present. New York, N.Y.: Aperture Foundation, 2018. ISBN 9781597113069.

Štěpán Grygar

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