The AIPAD Show: A Smorgasbord of Great Photography in New York City

©Jim Graham

Much like the swallows return to Capistrano each year so do the throngs of those that love fine photography. Like salmon swimming up Park Avenue to the Armory in New York City, they head to the yearly AIPAD (Association of International Photography as Art Dealers) show. This show gathers together more than 80 galleries from throughout the world.

As you walk into the show you’re greeted by two images by Annie Leibovitz: “Annie Oakley’s Heart Target” and “Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada,” both works in somewhat of a classic documentary style. To the opposite side of the aisle were two works by Todd Hido, each modernistic and both somewhat abstracted with camera movement. Together the four images tipped their hat to what the show really is offering.

There was a predominance of documentary photography at AIPAD this year. Some of the work was antiquarian, some classic and others more modern. Many images that were the darlings of the photography world in years past –  a school of post-modernistic Nihilism, ridden with angst and ego, and needing a tome to explain their meaning – have, for the most part, fallen away from the gallery walls.

©Jim Graham

But there certainly were many “cutting edge” offerings at the show. The Catherine Edelman Gallery brought two of Gregory Scott’s video/photographic constructions. The gallery tempered that work with a group of modern Tintypes by Kelly Andersen-Staley and equally modern works by Sandro Miller.

While certainly interesting and done to technical perfection, Miller's work was self-consciously derivative and self-referential, mimicking that of other photographers though buoyed by his model and friend John Malkovich who played the starring roel in the re-worked, classic images. Malkovich is such an amazing muse I would have truly enjoyed seeing what the obviously talented Miller’s would do with original ideas that were solely his own.

Sandro Miller, from the series Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters. Richard Avedon/Ronald Fisher, Beekeeper, Davis, California, May 9 (1981), 2014 Pigment print, 40 x 30 inches; Courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago

At PDNB Gallery’s, Burt Finger brought a number of Michael Kenna’s marvelous images. Each image spoke wonderfully in quiet narratives with a minimalist painter’s approach. Kenna himself relates his work to haiku poems, choosing his subjects as carefully as a poet might choose his. Kenna’s technique of long exposure at night, dawn or dusk helps each image speak for itself.

Hanging quietly next door in the Catherine Cloutier Gallery’s booth, were two wonderful new Jerry Uelsmann pieces: "Untitled, 2015 Secret Space of Dreams," and the second, also "Untitled 2015, Simultaneously Perceived." The two presented together, in a way a diptych, and both telling the same narrative story, almost called for a third image, perhaps a prequel to complete the story.

Photographer Beth Moon’s monumental tree work could be found in Verve Gallery’s booth. These platinum prints pay homage to photography’s early beginning with their rendering, while they composition and metaphor tip their hat to a more contemporary eye. Their essence preserves these marvels of the natural world and the time that the subject has persevered on the earth.

©Jim Graham

The Peter Fetterman Gallery, featured the work of two photographers, Sebastião Salgado and Stephen Wilkes. Each photographer worked with documentary styles, but approached their subjects from entirely different places.

Salgado’s dedication to his craft, his singular voice discussing social systems, or as in his most recent work, ecosystems heroically portray our world and its inhabitants in a classic documentary style. Each image beamed with elements of light, shape, moment and spirit.

Wilkes brings contemporary abstraction to modern documentary photography. He enlists all of the modern technological tools to compress day into night. His images offer a unique sense of place, and deal with the passage of time. Each photograph encompasses hours and hours of time, and incorporate any number of photographs made from exactly the same spot.

The final image is a compilation rendered into a single frame and printed to a monumental size. This dreamlike abstraction and Wilke’s color palette take the viewer to a surreal place, while anchoring them in reality.

Stephen Wilkes in front of one of his photos at the AIPAD show. ©Jim Graham

Finally, Jefferson Hayman’s work at the Michael Shapiro Photographs booth also evoked memories and nostalgia. Hayman’s work is rendered in a classic handcrafted silver gelatin and platinum prints in smaller intimate sizes. Hayman marries his images with antique frames to unify the entirety of his work.

Hayman main subject, New York, is deeply personal. It speaks of singularity; like Wilkes he shows us a dream. However, in Hayman’s dreamy city, the street is not the focus. Instead we are directed to the ideas of what New York City was, what it is today and what it will continue to be.

©Jim Graham

AIPAD also offers those who came through the doors at the Armory an opportunity to see the fine art photography world for what it was, what it is, and the potential of what it will be. Offering the photographer a stage, the galleries are a chance to assemble a score and gives the viewer a chance to see the metaphoric music on the walls.