Week in Review: 01.31.2014
Aperture aggregates the photography blogosphere’s most trending stories from the past week.
››This week, the world responded in shock to a cache of 55,000 photographs detailing Syria’s “torture” regime. The photographs, allegedly smuggled out of the country by a defector, document the deaths of some 11,000 detainees. Even more horrific is the fact that they were taken not by the opposition, but by the perpetrators themselves: members of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Aperture contributor Susie Linfield notes that in this case, “Rather than expose atrocities, photographs now advertise them,” and compares the photos to similarly revolting “perpetrator images” from Nazi Germany. She notes that today, with the use of social media, “these images of cruelty ricochet around the globe.”
››It seems that photography’s identity is being examined on multiple platforms, and we’re floored that New York City is buzzing with talk of the ICP’s latest exhibition, What is A Photograph? The show, which includes work by Marco Breuer, examines our challenge in defining serious photography in a world saturated with images. The show has already generated conversation, and comes at a time when other major institutions, including MoMA, Pier 24, and Aperture magazine, are addressing photography’s “identity crisis” in the midst of technological advances and an “overflow of images.” But is it a crisis? “It’s a benefit,” Pier 24 director Christopher McCall said to the New York Times, encouraging curators “to analyze and think about images because they’re everywhere.”
››State of the Union aside, President Obama caught the art world’s attention with a speech in Wisconsin, where he stressed the importance of education, specifically of the trade-school variety. A valid point, except that he knocked art-history majors in the process, and some have taken offense. “Oh my God, no,” the CEO and executive director of the College Art Association told Politico, “That’s just awful.” In his defense, Obama “loves art history.” And his wife, First Lady Michelle? She totally gets it. “The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.”
››It would be difficult to sum up this week without mentioning the fast-approaching 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the details of which seem to grow more outlandish by the minute. Fascinating, disturbing, and downright absurd, drama surrounding the games seems more fit for a circus tent than a stadium. Aperture’s The Sochi Project, by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen, has gained attention as a look beyond the facade of the games, though photographer Hornstra and van Bruggen won’t make it back to Russia any time soon. This week, as the international community pleads with Russia to repeal its anti-gay laws, we learned that winning athletes will be awarded pieces of meteor, and that Putin’s promise of a “green” Olympics was a guise.
››Escaping frigid weather on the East Coast, art publishers and fans alike headed west to the LA Art Book Fair. The fair, which opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen Contemporary on January 30 and runs until February 2, is in its second year. It features 250 international presses, booksellers, antiquarians, artists, and independent publishers (Aperture included). Its success last year was reassuring proof that print is most certainly not dead—although we knew that already. Earning attention and praise was a Queer Zines Exhibition, which highlighted the zine’s role in facilitating connection and communication between members of the gay community over the past 30 years.
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Katie Booth is an Aperture Work Scholar and a photographer. Originally from the Adirondacks, she holds a BFA in photography from SUNY Plattsburgh.