Friday, 28 January 2011

Diane Arbus (1923-1971)

Reading the first chapters of The Photograph (Graham Clarke,1997) reminded me of seeing the Diane Arbus Exhibition at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh In May 2010. Seeing the photo of the twins immediately recalled the powerful impact of her photographs en masse. At the time I found the majority of them disturbing. This was not because of the types of people photographed as I work with disabled people on a daily basis, but because of the starkness of the images. This was overlaid with a consciousness that in the highly politically correct present time people would be very reluctant to take similar photographs because of a perceived lack of dignity. I suspect that these type of photographs were unusual then too  as when many of these were taken ‘asylums’ were part and parcel of everyday life, but also somewhere where disabled people were shut away from the general public awareness. In fact, many of the photographs of the learning disabled look as though they are delighting in being shot, this may be because of the level of intense interest Diane Arbus was showing them or simply because of a complete lack of self-consciousness.

“What I'm trying to describe is that it's impossible to get out of your skin into somebody else's.... That somebody else's tragedy is not the same as your own” (Diane Arbus)

"There's a kind of rightness and wrongness and sometimes I like rightness and sometimes I like wrongness," (Diane Arbus)
Both photographs by Diane Arbus.

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