Aperture was founded in 1952 to promote photography for professionals, amateurs, and fans
In this episode of the Fine Art Photography Podcast, we will discuss the influential Aperture Foundation and magazine, which turned 70 in September 2022. How are they keeping relevant and what do they plan for their new permanent facility in New York City?
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Episode 79 full transcript
In this episode: The influential Aperture Foundation turns 70 with a new permanent home in Manhattan
Welcome back to another episode of the Fine Art Photography Podcast. In this episode, we will take a look at the influential Aperture Foundation which turned 70 in September 2022.
It was established in 1952 by a group of renowned photographers and influential supporters of the art and craft of photography, including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Barbara Morgan, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, and Minor White.
While it was founded by legendary luminaries, the intention was to make Aperture for everyone with an interest in photography. They wrote at the time, ‘Aperture draws no boundaries between amateur and professional, pictorialist and documentarian, journalist and scholar.’ (quoted in an interview with Christie’s)
If you know Aperture, it’s probably from their magazine. which began publishing in 1952 and still publishes 4 times a year. It’s been a thought leader on issues shaping the field of photography and presents work by established masters and emerging photographers alike. And it has a global focus — you’re as likely to see creative work from Seoul Korea as Brazil or London or LA.
The first cover of the Aperture magazine was stylishly designed in an understated minimalist Swiss grid layout that was popular in the 1950s. The masthead was typeset in all lowercase in a font that looks like Futura bold oblique. The black and white cover photo by Dorothea Lange showed a rustic wooden signpost highlighted against the dark gray field of the sky.
In addition to the quarterly magazine, Aperture also publishes photography books
But Aperture is also a non-profit photography foundation that organizes and hosts exhibitions. In fact, in the same month it turned 70, the foundation announced the purchase of a permanent home at 380 Columbus Avenue in Manhattan. It will include 10,000 square feet of space and will be home to the foundation’s offices as well as public programming and installations, a bookstore, and production space for their publishing branch.
Speaking in an interview with The Art Newspaper, Aperture’s executive director Sarah Meister said that the space will be used to promote public engagement and will host book signings and talks.
They intend to have the new space open by summer of 2024.
Speaking in an interview with Christie’s about the 70th anniversary and the new facility, Meister said she had to come to terms with how the quote unquote art photography fits within the wider practice of photography. Her initial instinct was to classify art photography above the other categories like vernacular photography, but eventually she realized art runs throughout all categories.
When asked how Aperture helps keep the work of legends from the past relevant while also showcasing innovative emerging practitioners Meister gave the example of Diane Arbus. In recognizing the 50th anniversary of a big MOMA exhibition of her work, Aperture published a new scholarly book about her work and created a traveling exhibition.
The publication also focuses on topical headlines and contemporary issues within photography and society at large,
Aperture published a special 70th anniversary issue of the magazine which can be purchased on their website currently and into the future at aperture.org.
They’ve also posted a beautiful article on their website called “17 Photographers Reflect on Key Images for Aperture’s Seventieth Anniversary.”
The article focuses on photographers selling images through Aperture’s Seventy x Seventy Sale: including Stephen Shore, Graciela Iturbide — one of my personal faves, Dawoud Bey, Tina Barney, Gregory Crewdson, Alex Prager, and many others. You can read this article at Aperture dot org without a subscription.
Speaking of that 70 x 70 print sale, I picked up a signed and numbered pigment print of the photograph Water Flower, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, shot in 1990 by legendary Japanese street photographer Daido Moriyama. The photo appeared in Aperture in 1992.
Here’s what Moriyama said about the image…
“When I stepped out onto the veranda that connected to the adjoining bedroom, in front of me was a forest of buildings as far as I could see. Right underneath, a subway train of the Ginza Line was rumbling out from the tunnel, only to disappear again into the belly of the Tokyo Building. In the foreground on the right-hand side, the dome of the planetarium on the rooftop of the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, which no longer exists, was glittering silver. It was a time when I was spending most of my days with a hangover from the previous night’s drinking spree with my friends. Such were the circumstances that this photograph was produced in.” (Christie’s)
I can’t wait to see that print in person.
That’s all I’ve got for now, thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you again real soon.
The Art Newspaper, “Aperture, the storied non-profit photography publisher and exhibitor, buys permanent Manhattan home”
Christie’s, “A common ground for the advancement of photography: Aperture celebrates 70 years”