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W. Eugene Smith Talk

Artist Talk: Mark Peterson with Claudia Rankine

Monday, September 16

7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore 547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor New York, NY


Join Aperture and the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for a special artist talk with Mark Peterson and poet Claudia Rankine.  Recipient of the 2018 W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography, Peterson will discuss his work on the series The Past is Never Dead, and his continuing coverage of the current political scene.

Peterson received the grant to continue his work on The Past is Never Dead, in which he photographs the modern-day Nationalism and white nationalism: looking at their traditions, symbols, and leaders; and, documenting the fight for who controls the narrative of free speech.

Peterson’s photographs “anticipated the Trump era,” writes James Estrin on the New York Times’ Lens blog. “His stark, critical images provide a jaundiced view of American political culture and have dominated the visual coverage of the rise of the right wing since 2013.”

Peterson grew up in Minnesota and has been working as an editorial photographer in New York for more than 30 years. He is is one of the most active and recognizable photojournalists working today, published in the New York Times, New York magazine, and TIME, among others. His latest book, Political Theatre, was published by Steidl in 2017. Peterson’s work is distinguished by its immediacy and rich, deeply saturated tones and detail.

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson/ American Repertory Theater) was published with Graywolf Press in 2019, and Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; as well as numerous video collaborations. Her next publication, Just Us, is a collection of essays forthcoming with Graywolf Press in 2020. She is also the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Smith Talks is a series of presentations, often featuring past recipients of the W. Eugene Smith Grant, and a longtime collaboration between the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and Aperture Foundation.

Since the Smith Memorial Fund’s inception in 1979, it has awarded over $1 million to photographers whose past work and proposed projects follow the tradition of W. Eugene Smith’s career as a photographic essayist. Recipients of the 2019 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grants will be announced during a ceremony on Thursday, October 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd St., New York. Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information, visit

For more information about the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund, contact Lou Desiderio at [email protected].

Aperture Foundation’s public programs are supported, in part, by generous donations from our Board of Trustees, our members and other individuals, and from corporate foundations and private foundations including: Grace Jones Richardson Trust, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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Artist Talk: Mark Peterson with Claudia Rankine