Trail: ---- / ---- by Aaron Schuman
In talking or writing about photography, I often find myself stumbling over my own words when it comes to describing the photographic act in even the most basic of terms: do we “take” photographs, or do we “make” photographs? To me, neither seem entirely sufficient, nor particularly accurate.
In reference to my own work, I generally go with “take”, as I’m not altogether comfortable with assuming full credit (or in fact, full responsibility) for whatever it is that I’ve happened to encounter with my camera and situate within a frame, no matter how much care and consideration has gone into it. To quote Lee Friedlander, “I only wanted Uncle Vern standing by his new car (a Hudson) on a clear day. I got him and the car. I also got a bit of Aunt Mary’s laundry, and Beau Jack, the dog, peeing on a fence, and a row of potted tuberous begonias on the porch, and seventy-eight trees, and a million pebbles in the driveway, and more. It’s a generous medium, photography.”
That said, I don’t like to think of photography as purely an act of collection or consumption, but one of creation and communication as well. And usually, when I’m referring to the work of others, “make” seems like a better fit, in that it signals both an acknowledgement of and respect for the photographer’s own input and intentions, as they go about mining new meaning from that which essentially already exists. At the same time, as a voracious viewer of photographs, I can’t help but wonder exactly how much of that meaning I’m actually “taking in” versus “making out” of other people’s pictures.
Following the lead of Photo Fringe 2020’s own title, TAKE/MAKE, in the most literal of senses, this trail winds its way through that strange no-mans-land situated between these two firmly defined terms. On the way, it explores exhibitions in which both the artists and their work consciously and carefully navigate this territory, precariously balancing upon that thin and crooked “---- / ----”, and simultaneously invite us, the audience, to do the same.
Aaaron Schuman is an American photographer, writer, educator and curator, currently based in the United Kingdom. His photographic work is exhibited and published internationally, and he is the author several critically acclaimed monographs including: SLANT (MACK, 2019) and FOLK (NB, 2016). Schuman has also contributed texts to a number of books, including Aperture Conversations: 1985 to the Present (2018), Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins (2018), Alec Soth: Gathered Leaves (2015), Vision Anew (2015), and The Photographer’s Playbook (2014), amongst many others; he also regularly writes for magazine such as Aperture, Foam, Frieze, TIME, Magnum Online, The British Journal of Photography, and more. Schuman has curated several major exhibitions, including Indivisible: New American Documents – Gregory Halpern, Sam Contis, Bayete Ross Smith (FOMU Antwerp, 2016), In Appropriation (Houston Center of Photography, 2012), Other I: Alec Soth, WassinkLundgren, Viviane Sassen (Hotshoe London, 2011), and Whatever Was Splendid: New American Photographs (FotoFest, 2010). In 2014, Schuman served as Chief Curator of Krakow Photomonth. In 2018, he served as Guest Curator of JaipurPhoto Festival. Schuman was also the founder and editor of SeeSaw Magazine (2004-2014) and is currently Programme Leader of MA Photography at the University of the West of England - UWE Bristol.