How do you get six of the biggest names in contemporary photography to make new work for your show? It’s actually easier than it sounds--or it was for Ken Miller, the curator of the frankly titled Photography at Aperture Gallery. The show, which opened today in New York, includes new photographs from William Eggleston, Nan Goldin, Ryan McGinley, Martin Parr, Terry Richardson, and Stephen Shore.
According to Vice, all Miller had to do to snag those six names was to offer each of the photographers a free Fujifilm X-Series. Famous photographers: They’re just like us! But Miller is quick to note that free swag wasn’t the sole motivator--the X-Series is billed as a digital simulacra of an old-school SLR, a kind of holy grail for the photography community. “I think there’s a certain nostalgia for a lot of these photographers who think ‘Oh, this works like a classic point-shoot Nikon,’” Miller told Vice's Christian Storm. “You sort of forget photographers are camera nerds, too, so they wanted to try it out.”
Whatever their motives, they turned up some pretty remarkable shots. Ryan McGinley’s are probably the most surprising. Though he’s stuck with familiar subject matter, there’s something wild about the images he shot with his X-Series. They’re crisp, bright, and clear--nothing like the soft, glowing scenes he normally shoots. Amazingly, it was the 73-year-old William Eggleston’s first time shooting digital film. Though he, like McGinley, stuck to what he knows (dusty rest stops and small-town landscapes), his snaps have an illicit, random quality to them--as though we’re watching a private eye run surveillance on someone. Meanwhile, Terry Richardson put some flower arrangements in front of his signature white wall and came out with a vaguely rococo pair of still-life snapshots--fair enough.
Miller is a genius for concocting such a radically simple but compelling curatorial strategy--give six of the most recognizable eyes in contemporary photography the same camera, then see what happens. Check out more of the images above or head over to the gallery’s website.