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A Q&A on the 2015 Aperture Summer Open

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The call for entries is now open for the 2015 Summer Open, Aperture’s second open-submission exhibition for which all photographers are eligible. Entries for the Summer Open will be accepted until Wednesday, April 8, 2015, at 12:00 noon eastern time. Entrants must bea current Aperture Foundation Member, through April 10, 2015, OR an Aperture magazine print subscriber through the Summer issue, or #219. The theme this year is Black Mirror, and will be curated by Aperture magazine editor Michael Famighetti: he recently spoke with Aperture Foundation’s executive director, Chris Boot, about the inspirations for this year’s theme and the selection process. This article also appears in Issue 1 of the Aperture Photography App: click here to read more and download the app.

Chris Boot: Last year I selected the work featured in what was our first Aperture Summer Open.The exhibition turned out to be very light, and playful, because that reflected the work that was submitted. This year, as curator, you seem interested in the opposite. Tell us where that came from. Do you think the future is dark?

Michael Famighetti: The theme suggests a dark point of view, but there’s plenty of room for playful work. Science fiction is packed with play and humor, even if it’s a gallows humor. The idea came from the show Black Mirror, which I think is a clever take on a future that feels just removed from the present, a time when technology defines our lives in an ominous way. The show’s title is, for me, a photographic reference: The “black mirror” is a screen turned off. I liked that the show got at how ubiquitous screens and images shape our lives today, and, of course, the metaphor of photography as a “mirror” goes back a long way. Is the future dark? I hope not, but the present is certainly strange and troubled. Another reference for the show was an article I read by Rebecca Solnit about now being 30 years beyond Orwell’s imagined 1984 where she articulates how the present feels stranger than societies portrayed in classics of science fiction, like films by Ridley Scott or stories by Philip K. Dick.

CB: Why Black Mirror, specifically? I haven’t seen the British TV show that the title references. Are you hooked on it?

MF: I really saw the show as being about photography, or at least media and an image-based culture. The image, at least in the context of this show, is ingrained in our lives, often in a sinister way. One could certainly submit work even if you’ve never seen the show. The theme is specific but potentially encapsulates a wide range of subjects, which works well for an open call.

CB: What kind of pictures are you hoping to see?

MF: A broad range—this topic can be spun in many different directions and explored through many approaches to photography, whether documentary or more art-based. I would like to see some projects that address the place of technology in our lives, of course, but projects could relate to the economy, social media, surveillance, the environment, time travel and space, or even Edward Snowden. Photographers might look at their work and think, “Oh, I could edit something I have to dovetail with this.” Mostly I’d like to be surprised by what’s submitted and to end up with a selection that captures the strangeness of 2015.

CB: It sounds like what the future looks like in photographs, in your mind, is partly foreboding, but in a way sexy, too. Is that fair? Can you give me some examples of work that you’ve been excited by, out in the world, that fit this theme?

MF: Speculations on the future should be seductive even if they can be disquieting. In terms of some recent work that we’ve published, or that I’ve seen, that could relate to this theme, there’s Thomas Dworzak’s Instagram Scrapbooks; Andrew Norman Wilson’s project on the scanners used to create Google’s library; Lucas Foglia’s documentation of communities gone off the grid; Mishka Henner’s work; and Martin Lange’s pictures of machines in high-tech labs, that are complicated to the point of comedy.

CB: How does this project relate to your work as editor of the magazine?

MF: We’re constantly building out new themes for the magazine and trying to see as much work as possible, so the open call here could help feed future issues of the magazine as well. Even if work doesn’t end up in the show, I hope to uncover things that may make sense for something else down the road. We’ll be closely looking at everything submitted.

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