Above image: Zeren Badar, Very First Accident; from the series Accidents, 2013
The Aperture Gallery has opened its doors to the photography world, giving an opportunity to anyone who wishes to submit their work for display. The open submissions led to an exhibition of 103 prints by 97 photographers, all selected by juror Chris Boot.
The Aperture Summer Open is a sampling of international photographers of all levels of experience, in the process helping to gauge the state of contemporary photography. The submissions were not limited to specific genres, yet definite themes emerged that helped to shape the exhibition. Boot sorted each photograph into categories, which were displayed on the outer edges of the space.
Jill Frank, Un Homme et un Femme; from the series Romance, 2013 // Melissa Eder, from the series Can You Dig It? A Chromatic Series of Floral Arrangements, 2014
Divided into sections of forest, flowers, ice, wallpaper, reading faces, food, music, and New York City, the photographs had strains of similarity, almost as if they were collaboratively created. But each piece brings a unique approach, resulting in an overall diverse show. One thread of similarity running through all the pieces is the positivity the photos emit, even those touching on serious themes. The photographers’ passion and joy is expressed through the photographs, leading to a lighthearted exhibition.
In the center of the gallery projectors presented works created by 37 photographers, each with their own unique series outside of the themes. These photographs focused on topics ranging from siblings with cerebral palsy, to landscape and nature studies.
Although it was inspiring to see such a wide variety of photographers with work strong enough to be featured, the sheer number of prints displayed was overwhelming. One was constantly drawn to the next photo, hustled along with few extended pauses. And to think, these were only the ones deemed worthy enough for display. The sheer amount of photography submitted had to be astronomical.
Supranav Dash, Master Band-Party Boys, $6 on assignment, 2011; from the series Marginal Trades // Kathryn Hurni, Doug, 2013
The point of the show is to display rising artists, getting a scope on the progression of photography. If anything, the fact that so many artists are featured is a point to be pondered. The overpopulation of the art form and rise of the digital world is making the medium so accessible that it is becoming watered down. Almost every photo we see can be considered cliché, overdone, unoriginal. What's the difference between an amateur Tumblr photographer and a piece of art worthy of worldwide recognition? One gets a million clicks of a tiny red heart, declaring, "Yes! I love this!" and then is completely forgotten as the next photo is scrolled upon. The other is hung on a gallery wall, visitors declaring, "Yes, I love this!" as they stroll by sipping their complementary wine, on to the exhibition next door for a refill without looking lush.
We love new photography and the continuation of an art form that deserves respect. However, when enormous exhibitions arise, or galleries pop up on every street corner, we're greeted with a dose of skepticism. Who can actually be considered worthy of the title "photographer?"
The Aperture Summer Open runs until August 14, 2014.
Text by Ashely Minyard
Event photos by Vanessa Li