May 12th, 2016
Aperture Celebrates the Launch of Vision & Justice
On Tuesday, May 10, Aperture celebrated the release of “Vision & Justice,” the magazine’s summer issue. Guest edited by writer, curator, and art historian Sarah Lewis, “Vision & Justice” explores the role of photography in the African American experience, from Frederick Douglass to the rise of #BlackLivesMatter. “American citizenship,” Lewis writes in her foreword, “has long been a project of vision and justice.”
Hosted by Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, the event had a centerpiece of a series of vibrant and moving readings by contributors and friends, staged in the Ford Foundation’s East River Room and framed by wide-angle views of the United Nations. Aperture’s editor, Michael Famighetti, welcomed the audience and recounted his first conversations with Sarah Lewis about the issue, before inviting Lewis herself to introduce the themes and images to be found in the pages of “Vision & Justice.”
The acclaimed actress and performer Sarah Jones opened the readings with a passage on Frederick Douglass from Sarah Lewis’s book The Rise. Artist Hank Willis Thomas, who said he likes to “shake things up,” asked everyone present to photograph the person seated beside them and post their pictures to social media with the hashtag #VisionJustice. Thomas then offered a tribute to his mother, Deborah Willis, the visionary photography historian and author of numerous books on African American photography and visual culture.
Writer and critic Margo Jefferson read from her essay in “Vision & Justice” on Lorna Simpson’s collages, which draw upon imagery from vintage issues of Jet and Ebony magazines. “I like to imagine that in the old world of black periodicals she might have been featured as Madame Lorna, designer extraordinaire, her creations sought for the top balls and fashion shows,” she said. Carrie Mae Weems, after reading a passage from her new book Kitchen Table Series, spoke of the artist as inventor, honoring all of the artists in the room, including Julie Mehretu, Deana Lawson, and Lyle Ashton Harris, among many others.
Garnette Cadogan read a profile of Radcliffe (Ruddy) Roye, the prolific street photographer who has accumulated thousands of images on his popular Instagram feed. Chelsea Clinton shared a passage from The Creative Process by James Baldwin. And the evening concluded with Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s stirring homage to the great New York street photographer Jamel Shabazz. “Present in [his] work is a fierce commitment to visibility,” Muhammad said. “His lens has always seen more joy, more life, more blackness than our own eyes are capable of.” A testament to the power of the artistic community in New York and beyond, the launch of Vision & Justice teemed with joy.