'Guiding light' in photography: Gala celebrates 70 years of Aperture

Sandy Kenyon Image
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
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Luminaries from the world of photography will gather in Chelsea to celebrate the 70th anniversary of a nonprofit organization called Aperture.

NEW YORK -- On Monday night, luminaries from the world of photography will gather in Chelsea to celebrate the 70th anniversary of a nonprofit organization called Aperture.

The name refers to the adjustable opening through which light passes to make a photograph, but the value of this group in 2022 comes from the way the group nurtures talented, young photographers like Tommy Kha.

At Higher Pictures, a Brooklyn gallery in the shadow on the Manhattan Bridge, Kha helps the future of photography come into focus; and this has earned him Aperture's Next Step Award.

"It means a lot to be recognized to confirm that whatever I'm doing has been seen in some way," the photographer said.

Kha grew up in Memphis, Tennessee -- the son of immigrants from Vietnam.

"We had a very difficult time growing up," he said, adding that there were times during elementary school when his classmates and teachers, "would comment on my accent, and my facial features" which would make him "feel really different."

Kha put what he was feeling into his work. Much of his giant photographs feature his mother, and they attracted the attention of Aperture, where Sarah Meister is the Executive Director.

"Aperture has been connecting people through photography for 70 years," noted Meister, and she pointed out a big part of that mission has been encouraging diversity.

In a presentation for Monday night's gala, Aperture Trustee Kwame S. Brathwaite calls the organization a guiding light in, "finding voices that need to be amplified and making sure that they have a platform and place to express themselves."

The brief video shows how a group of famous photographers, including Ansel Adams, came together 70 years ago to put out a magazine.

The organization helped establish photography as a fine art and soon grew to mount exhibits and publish books.

Today, these outlets are used to encourage the next generation of artists, said Meister.

"The idea of the Next Step Award is to give artists at emerging stages of their career the opportunity to work with us," she said.

That means Tommy Kha will get his own book and his own exhibit at Baxter Street Camera Club.

The idea is to propel Kha forward to the next level in his career because, as Meister explained, "one of the most important things we can do is to support and elevate voices of artists who might otherwise not be heard."

This will help to ensure Aperture can last another 70 years.

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