California Sunday Magazine at Aperture Foundation
A unique collaboration connecting East and West coasts.
Please Introduce yourself and talk about your part in the process of building The California Sunday show. How did the show come about?
My name is Jennifer O’Keeffe and I am a freelance photo editor and exhibition manager for The California Sunday Magazine and Pop-Up Magazine. In 2015 I helped to found Casemore Kirkeby gallery, where I was associate director for two years. I have also taught photography and photo history throughout the Bay Area, most recently at the San Francisco Art Institute.
I was hired by California Sunday in late summer to help manage the Aperture exhibition, At Home: In the American West, in its early phases, as the first images for the December issue on the theme of ‘home’ were coming in from photographers in the field. Jacqueline Bates, the magazine’s Photography Director who conceived of the issue and exhibition, called me in to help organize the show.
While I wasn’t around for the original conception of the show, I can see how California Sunday and Aperture were natural collaborators, with photography at the forefront of California Sunday’s mission to tell compelling stories with cinematic scope, and Aperture as this longstanding pillar of support for the photographic community with all these amazing outlets, including a major publishing arm. Encouraging and supporting the work of emerging photographers is foundational to both organizations, and they are both places that photographers look to in an aspirational way to see what is happening in the field – and for good reason.
How does the show coincide with the release of California Sunday’s December issue and why choose to mount an exhibition in conjunction with the magazine?
The works in the show were all commissioned for the magazine’s December issue, which is California Sunday’s first-ever all-photography issue, with every story being told through photographs. The theme of the photo issue is ‘Home’, broken into sub-categories of Far Away, In-Between, and Home. The cover story is a massive photo essay: 19 photographers were sent to 10 different states to make images and conduct interviews with their subjects about where they feel most at home. The photographers did an incredible job. The works in the exhibition were pulled from these assignments – and more images appear in the exhibition than could fit into the magazine, expanding its scope.
The exhibition was an opportunity for the magazine to present itself to a new audience in New York, which is already familiar with Pop-Up Magazine, and engage those supporters on the east coast who have been very excited about and encouraging of the magazine’s vision. To provide an opportunity for the emerging photographers to show at Aperture was also a huge factor, and many photographers who shoot for the magazine live in New York or have moved there. Jacqueline is from New York and started her career in the city. Her long-term relationships with the folks at Aperture gave rise to this collaboration. California Sunday’s Production Manager Thomas Bollier also started out as an intern there. The ties run deep!
Can you speak about the production of the show? Where did LightSource fit into the process? What was it like working with so many artists and coordinating everything with Aperture?
The most challenging aspect of the production was the tight turnaround between the magazine’s closing and producing the show, which depended – in some ways – on the magazine’s final edit. We also had to work with so many artists with different color palettes, sizes and types of files, and produce work that had never been printed before – doing our best to make each image feel both true to the artist’s vision and what we needed for the show. LightSource was an invaluable collaborator, working closely with Thomas Bollier to scan, print and color balance images. LightSource managed to turn around the project within a couple of weeks, with lots of last-minute changes. This gave us a tremendous amount of flexibility in how we were able to conceptualize the show and create an editorial vision within an exhibition space. Aperture was so open and receptive to what we were doing – they made everything easy and fluid. We had a dream team.
The show is about a sense of home within the American West, do you feel that the exhibition helped to facilitate a dialogue about current issues and ideas surrounding the “home” as a physical and/or metaphorical space? Do you feel like the show prompted the audience and participants to ask/reflect on interesting questions?
That is our hope. The text that accompanies the exhibition begins with, “Where do you feel most at home?” and I think that’s an important way into the exhibition, inviting the viewer to situate themselves within that question before entering the show. It’s not as straightforward a question as it sounds at first, especially when I try to answer it myself! And there’s such a multiplicity of voices and points of view that, more than anything, it gives a sense of ‘home’ as something mercurial and hard to pin down. We are living in an era of so many types of migrations for so many different reasons. The idea that you are going to stay in one place your whole life is true for fewer and fewer people, be it due to necessity, ambition, aspiration, political or environmental factors, or some combination of the above. I think this exhibition really reflects that, and gives room for this openendedness. There’s also audio that accompanies most of the photographs, so you can hear directly from the subjects: Being able to hear the voices of the people in the photographs, telling their own stories, makes this unique in terms of photo exhibitions. It expands in dimension.