2016 Winners - Bill Durgin
The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and highlight artists whose work deserves greater recognition. When choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, Aperture’s editorial and curatorial staff look for innovative bodies of work that haven’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.
For more information about the Aperture Portfolio Prize, please visit aperture.org/portfolio-prize.
Bill Durgin’s photography practice has always engaged the human body. He began by photographing people in domestic spaces, paying close attention to the sculptural possibilities of limbs and torsos, both whole or fragmented. Progressively, through different series, Durgin began to eliminate the familiar backdrops and instead staged the figures in white studios or galleries—sparse, constructed spaces. With his most recent series, Studio Fantasy, Durgin newly engages the human body, shifting the focus to representation itself—a statement on how images are made, edited, and the artificiality found therein.
By incorporating props such as clips, tape, and C-stands, photographs like Gaffer Tape, or V with Plywood and Mosaic Prints directly reference how images are constructed in the studio, highlighting often-hidden tools. Other props, like a wine glass with plastic wine spilling out at an impossible angle in Fake Wine Spill, or a painted wooden board in Apple Boxes with Print and Clamp, suggest photography’s ability to make us believe in false realities. In addition to these still-life images of props, Studio Fantasy manifests the photographer’s ongoing interest in the human body, underlining what is often omitted in our current media culture. The models hold placards or plywood boards with pixelated overlays of their naked bodies. The cover-ups simultaneously censor and expose, recalling the ubiquity of image-based redaction in social media while referring to the different shapes and supports that photography can engage with: paper, wood, screens, etc. Finally, Durgin’s careful eye for composition and lighting, evident in pictures like Self-Portrait with Gray Card and Multiclip, or Priscilla with Color Checker, seduces the viewer to look carefully at the tools and tricks within and outside of the frame.
About Bill Durgin:
Known for his unique work with the figure, Durgin’s images call attention to the process of working in the studio. He was introduced to photography while making photograms in his mother’s darkroom and as a teenager, interned at the International Center of Photography. He received his BFA from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1995, and his MFA from the California College of the Arts in 2000, where he worked under Larry Sultan.
Durgin’s photographs have been exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Guest Projects, London, SF Camerawork, San Francisco; Ego Gallery, Barcelona; and Klompching Gallery and Merge Gallery, both in New York. His work has been published in Acne Paper, Wallpaper*, Surface, Paper, the New York Times, and ARTnews, among others.