As part of Google Pixel 3's exclusive photography sponsorship of The California Sunday Magazine's special photo issue, “The Way Home,” and the accompanying gallery exhibit, At Home: In the American West, on view at the Aperture Foundation, they go behind the scenes with photography director Jacqueline Bates.
How did you select the theme of “Home” for the photography issue of the magazine? Why was it important to you to highlight this topic?
Jacqueline: In a year dominated by controversial immigration issues, rising housing costs, and wildfires, the theme of “Home” felt really important to us. In this special all-photography issue, which features over 150 photographs and accompanying audio, we wanted to show the diverse ways people across the American West think about “Home.”
What was your process of commissioning photographers to shoot for the issue?
We commissioned 34 photographers for this issue, including Katy Grannan, Texas Isaiah, Erica Deeman, Pixy Liao, Ricardo Nagaoka, Andrew Miksys, Ahndraya Parlato and Gregory Halpern, Irina Rozovsky, just to name a few. We love working with both established and emerging photographers, so you’ll see photographs from Jim Goldberg, who’s worked with experimental storytelling for over 40 years and whose work appears in galleries all over the world, as well as photographs by Taylor Kay Johnson, who just graduated from California College of the Arts and whose work I first discovered when we did an Instagram takeover with her graduating class last year.
For our cover story alone — “At Home” — we commissioned 19 photographers to travel across 10 states in the American West and ask people how they define “Home.” The answers ranged widely: Some defined “home” as a literal residence; others considered it in relation to the ocean, a hiking trail, a school, a community. We encountered a DACA recipient who just purchased his first house, a musician who remembers home as the elementary school where he learned to skateboard, a mother who built a bathroom from scratch for her and her 10-year-old daughter, a formerly homeless woman who has found a tiny house of her own, and so many others with interesting stories of “Home” to share.
Ricardo Nagaoka shot the cover of the magazine. What drew you to this image and how does it represent “Home?”
Ricardo Nagaoka, an amazing up-and-coming photographer, shot the Utah region of “At Home.” This particular photograph tells the story of “Home” from the perspective of Melinda Deaton from Alpine, Utah: “We were the first people to bid on this lot. It was on a quiet little cul-de-sac, which we shook up with four little boys. We built our house to grow in, and to grow up in,” she told us. But the photograph itself also feels universal, with the silhouettes implying that “Home” is open-ended and can mean something different to everyone.
You went to L.A. with production manager Thomas Bollier and art director Annie Jen to LSC Communications, which prints The California Sunday Magazine. How is the printing process different when considering the ratio of photos to text?
In this issue, there is at least one photograph on every page, and in some cases grids of 10 or more. Our regular issues have probably half the amount of images as this one. When you're at the printer doing a press check, you’re aiming to adjust the ink levels of the press so that every image matches a reference print, or at least looks as good as possible. So when you have twice the amount of artwork to print, the amount of adjustment is essentially doubled, and you have lots of situations where, say, a really colorful, poppy image prints across from a very subtle, light image, and the light image starts picking up some of that colorful ink, and you have to make a compromise between the two so that both look good. The press operators at the printer are real pros and in some cases have been working at LSC for 30-plus years, so they’ve seen it all and are very helpful in this process.
How did the Aperture Foundation gallery show come about as an extension of the print magazine?
We love to experiment with multimedia storytelling and find new ways to engage our readers off the page. At the exhibit At Home: In the American West, people can literally walk through an expanded version of our cover story (featuring 90-plus photographs) in a gallery setting. We also work with a lot of fine-art photographers, so this all-photography issue was a great opportunity to bring their work in the magazine to life in the form of a gallery show.
Working with Aperture Foundation has been wonderful — it helps that we share the belief that photographs are their own form of storytelling. I also love that Aperture features work from great young talent on their walls and in their magazine.
What was the install process like? How did you and the art department plan in the office and how did it translate to the Aperture Foundation's gallery?
Our office walls are often covered in spreads and photographs from the print issue, but for this special project, we also had to produce an entire gallery show! We hadn’t done it before, so it was quite the experience. Art Director Supriya Kalidas helped design the gallery layout — we went through many, many mock-ups of the gallery space — and Production Manager Thomas Bollier made sure all the prints looked perfect.
We learned so much from the install process, too. Jennifer O’Keeffe, the former co-founder of Casemore Kirkeby Gallery, helped us figure out the best approach for hanging the work, and Amelia Lang, associate publisher at Aperture Foundation, and the rest of the Aperture team, lent their expertise.
The opening party was packed! How did it feel to see all of the work installed at Aperture?
Over 700 people attended! We’ve been working on this issue — and the accompanying exhibit — all year long, so it was incredibly rewarding to see such a warm reception to the show. Especially for an exhibit in New York City that focuses on the American West. California Sunday is dedicated to bringing stories from the West, Asia, and Latin America to a national audience, and I’m so happy that our New York-based readers — and new audiences — are able to explore our work up close through this exhibit.