New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 13.5 April 18 to 24, 2012

AIPAD 2012

Aipad Photography Show New York
Students from the New College of Florida by Accra Shepp. Source:
Accra Shepp, "Students from the New College of Florida" 2011

Walking into the annual AIPAD show for the umpteenth time, I wondered what would make this year’s version different from all the others. It wasn’t much of a stretch to assume I was going to come face to face with a few Vivian Maiers here for the first time. Or drool over some vintage masterpiece that would soon hang in a museum, public or private. And then, I saw it, — right at the entrance––before I could decide whether to turn left or keep going straight. It was an “Occupy Wall Street” exhibition on Park Avenue – a wall full of rather ordinary black and white portraits of Zuccotti Park protesters by photographer Accra Shepp. They were affordable and charitable–$60 each, with half of the sales price being donated to the movement. My initial reaction, “I wonder how many would be bought by the 1%?“ After this diversion, it was business as usual at AIPAD. And according to AIPAD’s publicity spokesperson, this was a very good year attendance wise. The show had 11,000 visitors over its four-day run, a 10% increase over last year.

Photographer Stephen Wilkes  explains to an AIPAD visitor how he photographed
© Norman Borden, "Photographer Stephen Wilkes explains to an AIPAD visitor how he photographed "Bethesda Fountain, Central Park" " 2012

While many visitors no doubt came with checkbook in hand, many more were just looking. After all, where else can you discover some new unknown or emerging photographer while enjoying the masters hanging near-by? As usual, the show also presented many opportunities to chat with gallerists; most are happy to share a back-story about a particular image or photographer’s technique. Sometimes you even get the opportunity to meet the photographer, as I did when Stephen Wilkes explained how he photographs the epic works in his “Day to Night” series. Standing in front of his stunning 60 x 80 inch “Bethesda Fountain, Central Park” image in a main corridor, Wilkes recounted the details that were part of the daylong shoot last fall. After getting the various city permits needed to park on the roadway by the fountain, Wilkes climbed into a 170-foot high aerial lift on a bucket truck and spent about 14 hours photographing the scene around Bethesda Fountain. Using a 4 x 5 Linhof camera with a digital back, he took around 1,400 photographs during this time and later edited his take down to about 50 images. They were then composited into the final print that shows the shift from day to night. Wilkes pointed out some of the details in the image, like the seven Asian brides being photographed around the fountain at different times of the day. He said, “People don’t see these details right away.” He explained how he zeros in on a particular subject and then makes it part of his final print in the post-production. Each image takes about a year to produce. The price: $20,000.

The AIPAD show never disappoints—there are always unexpected pleasures, whether on the walls or in the bins on gallery tables or just from plain people watching. I enjoyed discovering some black and white prints by Sol Leiter at Howard Greenberg, marveled at Danny Lyon’s graphic “Cell Block Table” and wondered what Weegee would have said if he’d seen two of his vintage prints being sold for $40,000. That’s a far cry from the $35 that Time-Life paid him for “Two Murders.” And then there was the series of “Obama Smoking” at Occidental College taken in 1980 by Lisa Jack. Will they be worth more or less next year?

I’ll be back.

Aipad Photography Show New York by Norman Borden