Aperture - Chris Boot,
Changing of the Guard
Chris Boot was appointed Executive Director of Aperture one and a half year ago. It was a welcome end to a period of uncertainty for the Foundation. It was also a challenge, one that he faced with his British stiff upper lip, devoted as he is to photography in all its forms, mostly editorial. He loves to talk as much as he loves books, and his personality places Aperture, naturally and legitimately, at the heart of this small world of artists and enthusiasts practicing photography or taking it apart.
The path chosen by Chris Boot is as clear as his ideas. It represents less a turning point than a continuation of a significant and unifying legacy. He wants to bring Aperture back to the center of discussions about photography, and he is doing this by relying on the institution's traditional activities: the publication of periodicals, books and digital media; exhibitions, education, and exchanges, with an emphasis on social interaction. This approach is as historic as it is visionary. It corresponds to today’s photographic reality, which is made of different expectations and renewed interactions among its various applications.
While perhaps not revolutionary, this approach is full of ambition, an ideal ambition which Chris Boot’s inherent qualities make realistic: efficiency, vision, and the passion to achieve. The latter can be traced back to his youth when, as a teenager, Boot fantasized about becoming a pop star, and carefully designed the cover for his upcoming album. The result is one of those collector’s items we hold onto and whose design we end up preferring to the music itself, which in the case was never recorded. Then came books. In 1998, Boot worked on the catalogue for the exhibition Bodies of Experience in London, and would continue doing so through his publishing house Chris Boot LTD. This idée fixe is one he shares with his compatriot Martin Parr, with whom Boot has produced no fewer than eight works as unorthodox as they are renowned.
Although Chris Boot feeds his editorial obsession, he is not a materialist. He simply has a clear vision of the form that a work of photography should take. This clarity, this attraction to simple and incisive books, is the result of another childhood memory: the catalogue of Ladybird Books, whose refined structure consisted of a single image combined with text. Looking back, Boot readily acknowledges that this is the format he has most often adopted for his own books. This powerful simplicity comes from the unshakeable conviction of knowing what he wants and sticking to it, without getting distracted by tempting, secondary criteria, like beauty. Once he has made his decision, things happen quickly. The most dramatic illustration of this is Beaufort West by Mikhael Subotzky, an informal conversation that was transformed into a book published in 3,000 copies. It took Boot six short months from conception to completion. At Aperture, Boot has kept on at this pace, as the recent developments discussed in the previous article show.