Editors’ Note from Spring 2013 Issue
What should a photography magazine be? This question propelled a long conversation at Aperture Foundation about how we can navigate the next chapter of photography’s evolution and make a vital contribution as a print publication. The new Aperture was created with two steady assumptions in mind: First, that in a time when photography is abundant on digital platforms, images in print—ink on paper—continue to offer a uniquely actual experience. Second, that a magazine can engage photography’s changing narrative—while remaining attentive to the medium’s history—through thoughtful, accessible writing.
For these reasons, the main section of the magazine is now divided into two parts, “Words” and “Pictures.” In each issue, these two will cohere around an inquiry into a field or topic: the “Words” section will feature the longer, more substantial textual contributions, as well as interviews; in “Pictures” the emphasis will be on individual artists’ projects and photo series, generally introduced by short statements. A2/SW/HK, our new art directors, have re-envisioned the magazine to capitalize on how this print publication can continue to assert itself as an object, through its tactile presence, dynamic typography, and high-quality reproductions—all housed in an elegant design geared toward both reading and viewing.
We thought it fitting to organize our relaunch issue around a broad set of concerns for photography today. To get started, we called upon a group of thinkers, curators, and photographers to consider language from Aperture’s original 1952 mission statement proposing that the magazine should serve as a platform to “comment on what goes on” and to “descry the new potentials” of the medium. Our title, Hello, Photography, is a reversal of Daido Moriyama’s 1972 title Bye Bye Photography, his book of blown-out, fractured photographs that seemed designed to thwart easy comprehension—an acknowledgment that the medium was shedding its skin, becoming something else. Today, it’s a truism to talk of photography being in flux. The definition of photography, always multivalent, charting a promiscuous course across disciplines and contexts, feels especially slippery now, and this has caused much recent consternation and reevaluation. This installment of the magazine does not seek to replicate such inquiries, but rather to begin with the premise that all bets are on for the medium.
In his essay on contemporary scholarship, photography historian Robin Kelsey notes that the central concern for the medium today may be the fact that it occupies two homes: a tangible, material world of objects and prints, and a digital world of files and servers. The conflicting characteristics between the two can be felt across the photographic contexts represented here, as contributors to the “Words” section grapple with a host of ideas: the mandates and expectations for institutions dedicated to photography; how we might rethink photography education to better reflect our image culture (and how this image culture, which fluidly flattens and divorces images from context, potentially alters their evidentiary capacity); the interplay, as well as the familiar conflicts, of digital and analog; how to establish a taxonomy of vernacular photography when image output has grown too voluminous to parse; and how it might be productive, from our current vantage shaped by technological innovation and antic image traffic, to revisit older ideas—like that of artistic freedom—which take on new shadings in the current terrain.
In “Pictures,” opening with a selection from Christopher Williams’s new series based on a manual for an East German camera (also featured on this issue’s cover), it is primarily the photographers who, through their own work, make the arguments. Williams’s images of hands manipulating an analog apparatus lead into a series of portfolios that address a diversity of topics, such as our media-saturated society, the medium’s history and mechanics, photography’s indexical relationship to the world, as well as new modes for producing documentary work.
Like Hello, Photography, future issues of Aperture will be organized around specific inquiries: we will engage with photography as an art form, as a social phenomenon, and as an elastic lexicon for creating and shaping ideas. Hence our new tagline: “Speaking the language of photography.” Some issues will be guest-edited; others will be produced offsite, through the prism of a specific city or institution. The two main sections will carry the principal investigation, whereas the front and back will feature a series of rotating columns, including “Studio Visit,” “Collectors,” “Redux,” “Dispatches,” “What Matters Now?” and our new closing page, “Object Lessons.” While we are required, for the first time in a decade, to raise the subscription and newsstand prices of the print edition, all of Aperture’s content is now accessible in the digital version of the magazine at a new, lower price. Print subscriptions will include access to the digital edition as well as our semiannual publication, The PhotoBook Review. The magazine will also be more closely integrated with Aperture Foundation’s live and online programming: the debates, ideas, and work published in print will be explored through events at the Aperture Gallery and other venues, as well as on our website.
For sixty years now, Aperture has charted the concepts and changes shaping photography’s evolving narrative. Minor White, the magazine’s founding editor, noted in an editorial of 1953, a moment when the photography world was much smaller: “Photography seems to be reevaluating itself these days—probably preparatory to taking off in a new direction.” The magazine has always had as its mandate a goal of serious disquisition on the state of the medium. The following pages introduce a range of vital questions with a view to animating—and reanimating—key ideas on photography. This lies at the heart of Aperture’s purpose as it moves in a new direction, the better to respond to the medium’s many new directions.