The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition.
When choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, Aperture’s editorial and curatorial staff look for innovative bodies of work that haven’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues. The winner receives $3,000 and an exhibition at Aperture Gallery in New York. All finalists are featured on Aperture’s website, accompanied by a brief statement written by Aperture staff and will also have the opportunity to participate in the Aperture Foundation limited-edition print program. Past finalists include Eli Durst, Amy Elkins, Bryan Schutmaat, Jessamyn Lovell, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Michal Chelbin, and Sarah Palmer.
How do we learn, as girls and as women both young and aging, to inhabit our bodies? It can seem to be an exercise in self-deception and accidental and occasionally abject revelation, by turns. The twin poles that we travel between, in this ongoing calibration of physical self and inner self, are the images of others—most especially the others who beam at us from the pages of magazines or movie screens—and our mothers. Natalie Krick’s series Natural Deceptions, made in collaboration with her mother and her sister, explores the temptations and degradations that can be found across this spectrum. The images are colorful, witty, aggressively slick—they would feel equally at home as fashion campaign or celebrity portraiture, save for their bite and personal inflection. “My mother, my sister, and I perform for each other, for the camera, and ultimately, for you,” says Krick. “We impersonate each other and ourselves, emulating imagery that has taught us to be beautiful.” An image like Me posing as Mom posing as Marilyn asks the viewer to see the subject through multiple internal filters—the double masquerade implied by the caption and the iconicity of the known image referenced obliquely. Me posing as Mom posing…, like many others in Natural Deceptions, is bistable, or even multi-stable. It functions similarly to any one of those common perceptual tests or optical illusions—“Duck/Rabbit” or “Old Lady/Young Lady” (also known as “Young Girl/Mother-in-Law” or even, more cruelly, “Young Lady/Old Hag”). These images challenge the viewer to hone in on one image over another, but the other identities continue to flicker in the background, informing and influencing the read of the whole. Similarly, we see ourselves in the two-dimensional place of a photograph, but sometimes, we don’t or can’t—we get caught between the layers of self; of destiny as defined by heredity and family resemblances; of projections of what we want to see. Faux thigh gap functions similarly—we see what we have been trained to see, until we snap back to seeing what’s actually in the image: namely an optical allusion to the rampant (and often obvious) photoshopping of women’s bodies so that they might conform to some societally prescribed ideal.
Each of Krick’s images—and at the core of this series—is an effort to puzzle out the nature of photography in relation to feminine identity and selfhood. The image can be adulatory, and it can be savage. In Krick and her co-conspirators’ hands, it is also always compelling.
—Lesley A. Martin
About Natalie Krick:
Natalie Krick (b. 1986, Portland, Oregon) currently lives in Seattle. She received her BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in 2008 and her MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2012. She has recently exhibited at SOIL Gallery, Seattle; Webber Represents, London; Aperture Gallery, New York; and Weinberg/Newton Gallery, Chicago. In 2015 she received an Individual Photographer’s Fellowship from the Aaron Siskind Foundation.