Leveling with Labels
Conventions Pt 2: The Art Show
August 2006; Water
Heraldry, Pt 4: Charges
Diane Arbus: RevelationsProduct Review
by Megan Myers
So said Diane Arbus, one of the most well-known photographers of the 1960s. Arbus' subjects of choice were those who were considered the strangest of society: transvestites, strippers, nudist camp residents, among others. While Arbus also photographed "normal" people going about their everyday business, it is through the images from the underbelly of society that the casual observer learns the most. As she captured the secrets of her subject's lives, she managed to bring to light questions about our supposedly normal society.
A retrospective of her life, "Diane Arbus: Revelations", which was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is now on the last leg of its two-year tour at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Surprisingly, Arbus only had one museum exhibition while she was alive, and this collection is the most comprehensive presentation of her life ever to be arranged.
The exhibit, which runs through September 10, includes nearly 200 photographs from her career. Also on display are Arbus' personal journals, letters, family photos, and items from her library, including photographs from other influential photographers such as Jacob Riis. A comprehensive chronology of her life and photography career is also presented, and the entire collection serves as a powerful study of the philosophy behind Arbus' photographs and of the woman herself.
The photographs themselves are at times haunting, beautiful, or confusing, but always captivating. Arbus often waited until her subjects looked right into the camera before taking the shot, resulting in expressions that repeatedly asked the viewer to confront them, to look into the eye of what the public so often shunned. Although the images are no longer as shocking as they were when first seen in the 1960s, they still help put a face on the people most of us know nothing about.
Even without examining the subject of Arbus' photographs, the technical level is stunning. Arbus learned photography from her husband, and while her journals and letters give a glimpse into the struggles she had with learning the workings of her cameras (she switched from 35-mm format to a dual-lens Rolleiflex), her supposed inexperience never shows in the images shown here. The tonal contrast in her photos is worth remarking on-Arbus' blacks are the deepest, darkest black, making any use of white pop on the paper.
For those of you who can't make it to the Walker to see the exhibit in person, the book form is an excellent substitute. (And the amazon.com price is a great deal.) If you are a fan of Diane Arbus, unfamiliar with her work, or just love interesting photography and the stories it holds, be sure to check out "Revelations".
Would you like to support our contributors? As a subscriber, you could use your subscription fee to pay this author for their work, as well as receive lots of extra subscriber perks!
All graphics on these pages are under copyright. Webpage design copyrighted by Ellen Million Graphics. All content copyrighted by the creating artist. If you find anything which is not working properly, please let me know!
EMG powered by: a few minions and lots of enchanted search frogs