Melissa Harris is editor-at-large at Aperture, where she has edited over forty books, including David Vaughan’s Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years and Merce Cunningham’s Other Animals. She was editor-in-chief of Aperture magazine from 2002 to 2012. A Wild Life, her biography of photographer Michael Nichols, was published by Aperture in 2017. She is currently writing a biography of Josef Koudelka. (January 2020)
Merce Cunningham: Redux, James Klosty’s exceptional collection of over 270 photographs of Cunningham, as well as of the dancers, composers, and visual artists who worked with him, is a stunning accomplishment. Cunningham usually evaded the camera lens. But perhaps he understood Klosty’s commitment to presenting the company in a nuanced and rigorous way. Perhaps it was because the dancers seemed comfortable in his presence. Or maybe it was a matter of habituation—how a photojournalist, or scientist, studying animals in the wild may, with sensitivity and patience, be accepted, or at least tolerated, over time. Or maybe John Cage, who was always looking out for Cunningham, as well as considering what might benefit the work in some way, liked and appreciated Klosty and his talent, and encouraged Cunningham to be open to the idea. I imagine that Cunningham came to understand not only the value of this kind of in-depth documentation, but the independent strength of the photographs as well.