2017 Aperture Summer Open: On Freedom

I visited the Aperture Gallery today and looked at the exhibit which just opened on Thursday, the 2017 Aperture Summer Open: On Freedom, curated by For Freedoms.

For Freedoms is a platform for civic engagement, discourse, and direct action for artists in the US. Founded in January 2016, For Freedoms aims to model how art and discourse can urge communities into greater action and participation.

Two of the portfolios featured found images, and they seemed to me to be digital art rather than photography, but I suppose that Aperture is trying to expand the definition of photography.

Most of the portfolios show those who are conventionally considered underprivileged: blacks, gays, people in debt, and lower-class whites from Toms River, New Jersey. Plus a new category of underprivileged that I have not previously seen: Islamic terrorists (or rather men who were released from Gitmo ; maybe technically they are called “enemy combatants”).

In a photography trend that I’ve long observed, black subjects are always shown with dignity (going back to Robert Frank’s famous photobook The Americans), but the lower-class whites from New Jersey are shown in extremely unflattering poses. If you click on the link and look at the photos that are available on the web page, you will see exactly what I mean.

One of the portfolios is from a project to photograph every Planned Parenthood location in the state of Ohio. While abortion itself is a very politicized topic, the buildings in which the clinics are found are just nondescript buildings in unexceptional neighborhoods.

My favorite collection is the one that I photographed, which has a portrait of a person, in debt, taken in their home, and next to the photo is a handwritten statement of the amount owed and how they got into the situation. I like the idea of including something personal from the subject of the photo. Too much photography is just the photographer’s point of view. In this case, there was an attempt to give the subject of the photograph some participation.

What I think is missing from this exhibit:

1. Lower-class whites photographed with dignity.

2. Photographs of wealthy privileged people. This is a subject that I find generally lacking in photographic as well as sociological circles. Everybody wants to photograph or study poverty, but why is no one interested in wealth?

* * *

The Aperture Gallery is located in Manhattan on 27th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. This exhibit is on display through August 17th.

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