Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Child with a toy Hand Grenade in Central Park" N.Y.C. 1960

“Child with a toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” N.Y.C. 1962
Many of Diane Arbus’s work shows the uniqueness of society and of the normal scale. Though with the photograph above called Boy with a toy hand Grenade is not a picture of someone that would be labeled as different. When I say different there is a fine line but the American society has created the definition of different and many of Arbus’s subjects in her work fall into that such as the dwarfs, midgets, homosexuals, nudist, and transvestites. In this photograph there is a young boy that is in Central Park in New York City. The boy is a petite young child with a crooked smile on his face. By seeing his face you can tell that he knew that there was going to be a picture taken. Seeing this you know that Arbus has become involved with her subject, which is what she usually does. Though you see what is in his right hand. The object that is in his right hand is why Arbus photographed him. It is the reason for controversy in the photograph.

Diane Arbus firmly believed that the more the subjects actively participate in the process the better the image will be. The young boy had a toy hand grenade in his hand. Arbus chose the boy because the irony of a lethal weapon being a toy. It may seem okay when you first view the photograph but Arbus wants you to look deeper into the picture, find the meaning. The boy being in New York Cities, Central Park is important “Each subject is photographed in an environment that is deliberate and expressive of the place in which the subjects are in” (Arbus 56). He being in such a big city is symbolic. The big city atmosphere has influenced the child. Also she is challenging how the world is turning, whether it is in a good direction or not. By viewing this photograph the society seems to be going into the wrong direction. A deadly weapon is being used lightly. A child is playing with a toy that symbolizes death and violence. Arbus disagrees with how the world going and is documenting it. Her work can relate to how society has moved to the worse. Violence is becoming acceptable “I want to show my viewers a powerful photograph and an experience; I want them to think about themselves and the world around us all” (Arbus 62). Arbus wants the viewer to question the boys life and theirs. She is acknowledging the crumble of society.

I chose this photograph because I think it is one of her most powerful photographs that she has ever taken. It is not as shocking to the eye at first but I believe the meaning behind it is very shocking. I found it interesting that Arbus could see how the world was going to a negative way of life. I myself can see that violence is much more acceptable to be viewed than it was 50 years ago with such things as movies and television. Having a young child playing with even a fake hand grenade is poisoning the young society from the beginning. During her time as an artist in the 1960’s it was a time of peace and freedom. Though seeing this challenges if things really are moving towards the better. Arbus see’s that we need to change out young society first before we can move forward to a better lifestyle for all.

Arbus, Diane. Diane Arbus: Revelations. New York City: Random House, 2003.

"A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx" N.Y. 1970

Diane Arbus is known to challenge the viewer and present a subject in a photograph to a viewer that is uncommon to the viewer’s eye. In the photograph above there is a man who is a giant and he is at home with his parents. The picture shows the dramatic difference in the subjects. This photograph was a part of the limited edition portfolio, which is also known as A box of ten photographs that was created in 1969-1971. The pictures in the portfolio were selected after the New Documents exhibition “The pictures that were selected constituted a kind of exhibition in and of themselves, to be examined on at a time rather than all at once” (Arbus 66). The photographs in the portfolio were meant for the viewer to focus and question. They were there to find the meaning and the uniqueness of the experience presented. Most of the Photographs in the portfolio depicted families or just refer to the idea of a family. In the photograph above the representation of family is present. Though Arbus purposely uses families that are not common, that are interesting in their own way Arbus states that she used him because he was a mythical figure enclosed in a modest Bronx living room. Arbus expresses the relationship with the subjects “The Jewish giant is tragic with a curious bitter somewhat stupid wit. The parents are orthodox and repressive and classic and disapprove of his carnival career…They are truly a metaphorical family. When he stands with his arms around each he looks like he would gladly crush them. They fight terribly in an utterly typical fashion which seems only exaggerated by their tradgedy…Arrogant, anguished, even silly” (Arbus 67). Arbus becomes a part of the family unit in a way. She learns how they interact with each other. It is not just a photograph that will be quickly snapped. Arbus becomes involved and interacts with her subjects, which I believe creates a more powerful photograph.

One of the reasons behind Arbus photographing the Jewish giant is to show the world what all is out there “I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them” Arbus stated in 1966 (Arbus 50). Arbus’s goal was to search for uncommon and to present it to everyone. After the death of Diane Arbus her possessions were sorted and many others came to a better understanding behind why she photographed what she did. The contents of her personal library suggest her deep interest in myth. Fairy tales and myth attracted Arbus, she wanted to find the real counterparts to the figures who inhibit these stories. The Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx 1970, Mexican dwarf in his hotel room 1970, N.Y.C, and Russian midget friends in a living room on 100th Street 1963, They are all examples of Arbus finding people that were different and in a way mythical because some viewers have never seen people that look like them “The subjects were like metaphors something people don’t dream about” (Arbus 50). Her work was to bring these people out from the dark and shock her viewers. That they are too be accepted even though they are different. Many other artist critized her work “People who don’t like Diane Arbus’s work call her a voyeur, a cold-hearted, cold-eyed exploiter of harmless perverts and geeks” (Arbus 50). Though she did not exploit her subjects, she wanted her photographs to be shocking, and powerful, and wanted to get people talking.

I think the reason that Arbus photographed people that were different because I think she viewed herself as different from society. She was expressing that she was different and so were others and that others should be accepted. She wanted to challenge society in seeing something outside the mold. Arbus’s photographs with the unique make me think of Adrian Pipers work. Adrian Pipers piece Catalysis III 1970 is about someone who is different she is African American. The photograph above is powerful and dramatic. Arbus wanted this photograph to be intense and she wanted the subject to dominate the viewer.
Bosworth, Patricia. Diane Arbus: A Biography. New York City: Avon, 1984.
Arbus, Diane. Diane Arbus: Revelations. New York City: Random House, 2003.

Two Ladies at the Automat (New York City) 1966

The photograph above is called “Two Ladies at the Automat.” This is a photograph by Diane Arbus who photographed two men dressed as women as they were having lunch in New York City. These men were transvestites that were proud of whom they were. They were lavishly dressed up and ready to be out on the town in New York. Arbus purposely sought out these young men, which is what she did for most of her subjects. She photographed them because they were different to American Society. Arbus sought out the unfamiliar and wanted to document her experiences. When saying she documented her experiences she really did have an experience with the subject she photographs. Arbus’s work is not snap shot work like a similar photographers Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander; which were both in the show at The Museum of Modern Art called New Documents in 1967 with arbus. Arbus researched people that were thought of as different or unique. She would travel to find these people and get to know who they were and wanted to document not only her experience but their life story. In the 1960’s transvestites were not accepted or common to see in American society. Having this uniqueness to them intrigued Arbus. She purposely looked for the unusual.

The search for the uncommon was what most of her career consisted of after she finished her days as a fashion photographer. Arbus used these “women” to show the viewer something, “she shows us that clothing as self expression, as art” (Arbus 50). What they are wearing expresses who they are and how they perceive themselves. This reminds me of Stephen Willats art when he created shirt kits. That everyone would express themselves and express themselves as artist. Arbus embraces their lifestyle and their identity “ Her camera is not judgmental, detached, though it compels us to acknowledge that at some point we are creatures of fashion caught in the oncoming headlights” (Arbus 50). It was real, it was current, it was what she wanted the world to see without judgment, that this was a normal lifestyle for two people even though it may seem completely abnormal to the viewer.

I was drawn to this picture because of the way the women in the picture looked at the camera. When I look at this photograph I feel that the women are looking at me. That type of power makes the viewer really look and understand the photograph. Arbus stated that “ Everyone wants to be viewed one way but everyone sees the opposite, the first thing people see is the flaw” (Arbus 56). She wants and expects the viewer to challenge what they think. When I first looked at the photograph I knew something was not right with the women, I immediately found a flaw. The “women were men. I could see their penciled in eye brows, hairy hands, and a slight adams apple protruding from their necks. The “women” in the picture want me to view them as women but I, a viewer, found their flaw. Arbus understands how society views and reacts to things such as a situation like “Two Ladies at the Automat” and she wants to challenge the viewer.
Arbus, Diane. Diane Arbus: Revelations. New York City: Random House, 2003.
Bosworth, Patricia. Diane Arbus: A Biography. New York City: Avon, 1984.