Aperture needs no introduction—both the foundation and its international magazine have been going strong for over 50 years, providing one of the cornerstones of the global photographic community. Editor Michael Famighetti has been running the magazine since its relaunch in the spring of 2013. The publication, based in New York City, has continually been at the vanguard of contemporary photography since its inception.
Below, Famighetti discusses the newest iteration of Aperture and his advice for photographers on how to be noticed by jurors and editors alike.
LC: You have worked with Aperture for several years now. Can you say a bit more about your role there as editor? What have been some of the most personally rewarding aspects of this position?
MF: I’m interested in creating a context for photographs and in considering photography in a broader social and historical sense. We live in a world awash in images. With a print magazine, we have the opportunity to slow things down—to make careful decisions about individual images, related pieces of writing, aspects of the design, the quality of reproduction, and so forth. Each part of the magazine is carefully crafted: even the typefaces were drawn specifically for us.
Aperture has an incredible history. For me, it’s essential to honor that history and the founders’ original motivations and ideas, while responding to an evolving field. We recently produced an issue called “Vision & Justice,” for which I worked with a guest editor, the Harvard art historian Sarah Lewis. The issue was grounded in the visionary thinking of Frederick Douglass; it explored representations of African-American life in photography. The lineup for that issue was truly exciting, with figures from art history, literature, theatre, and cinema. Meanwhile, the sweep of imagery, from the 19th century through today, was emblematic of what, I think, we’re uniquely positioned to do: to think about photography as it stands at the intersection of many fields, ideas and conversations.
LC: Aperture underwent a significant redesign and relaunch in 2013. Can you tell us a little about what inspired the reinvention of the magazine? Do you and your editorial team have specific goals in mind for the new Aperture?
MF: Publications evolve—Aperture has had a number of formats and designs across its history. It had been many years since the publication had been redesigned, and we felt it was time. The redesign in part addressed how the field had changed as a result of the rise of digital platforms, which radically changed both photography and publishing. The magazine became more like a book—each issue has a thematic approach to organizing content, more pages, more writing, in-depth interviews with leading photographers, etc.
If you’re making something in print today, you want people to want to hang onto it. So we were thinking a great deal about the qualities—tactility, ink on paper—that only a physical object can deliver.
LC: Has working as an editor for Aperture changed how you see photography? If so, in what way?
MF: I think it allows me to have an expansive idea of photography as we publish a broad range of work that looks at both the history of the medium and contemporary practices. We work to be global and represent a range of histories and narratives of photography. It’s exciting to continually be exposed to new work and ideas.
LC: You’ve been a frequent portfolio reviewer around the world. What are a few pieces of advice you find yourself offering most frequently to aspiring or emerging photographers who are looking to advance their careers?
MF: Be curious and read up on the history of photography. I am often surprised during reviews when photographers don’t know some of the key names and projects in the medium. I also want to know what people are reading—novels, non-fiction, daily journalism. In short: what’s informing how you look at the world?
LC: Is looking at submissions for competitions different than considering photographers to include in your magazine? Do you consider a different set of criteria?
MF: The magazine is thematic, so I’m usually looking for work that fits a number of the themes that we’re focusing on. Meanwhile, competitions can be useful because you never know what you’re going to see. I appreciate that element of surprise.
LC: Finally, do you have different metrics or criteria in mind when you’re considering entries for an “emerging talent” award? What can emerging talents do to stand out from the crowd in the context of a competition?
MF: The metrics vary, but fundamentally, I’m looking for work that feels smart, thoughtful, and resolved.
—Michael Famighetti, interviewed by Coralie Kraft
Editors’ Note: Michael Famighetti will be judging entries to the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016.