On Diane Arbus, Part I

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Diane Arbus


EN/   On Diane Arbus, Part I

Overlapped on the genres of Portraiture and Documentary Photography, having people as her subject Diane Arbus looks close at the ones in which most of people would either look away or stare for judgments. Photographing people has always involved identity, beauty and their place in society in a way it would please who would consume the images, being for personal use, public or scientific.

The idea that a portrait can determine what personality or life you have has been taken seriously with the pseudo-Science called Eugenics, making serious use of photography as tool to document, measure and establish types. The ones who could cause a social & political disorder by weakening imperial superiority, either for being a criminal or having a serious pathology in which would consider this individual disabled, was nominated as the “Residuum” by the theorist, Lombroso. This theory is not so actual anymore as well as the ideal/perfect “race”, but the notion of “other” to classify people as more or less important in society is still in evidence and has always been portrayed with photography.

In a way Arbus tried to subvert the way this rejected group of people are seen, just simply by photographing them and letting the photos attract further attention than those individuals would ever get on the streets, by looking into what they are more than how they look. As she wrote on An Aperture Monograph, “Essentially what you notice about them is the flaw”, by elevating their images with photographs it gives them an extra importance, and questions people’s curiosities about their self, creating a deeper connection in which the photographer was the bridge between the Freak and the “norm”.

Known as the photographer of the Freaks, Diane Arbus had to go out of her comfort zone to find out what the classified freaks’ features are to be nominated like this, and therefore she went to varied locations where they could be found. This one of the man in bikini, the transvestite curiously have the right arm and leg shaved and the left arm and leg not shaved, it preserves the polarity of his persona as body and soul. Certainly it would be the clue for the mystery many people passing by would have to try and recognize “what it is”, as if not being able to define it would terrify people. Here the Dualism the French philosopher Descartes talks about would be applied as said: ” The soul, by which I am what I am, is entirely distinct from the body.” Away from any judgments, but being exposed to a camera the transvestite looks quite serene besides the carnivalesque costume, the background seems to be a conventional place, which could be a home that any “norm” could live.

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The gap between intention and effect is how Diane Arbus calls to define the difference of appearance and reality, in a society where masks are constantly used to reaffirm positions, identities and possessions. This portrait (in the text bellow) makes part of a series taken of circus people and puts tattoos as the freakiness, but in this case it becomes entertainment which is one of the ways freaks gets attention, by subverting their nomination and appearance for their own good. Again the subject looks straight to the camera, but more in a intimidating way, which seems to be part of his character for the act and show, but yet seems very open to be photographed.


PT/ Sobre Diane Arbus, Parte I

Sobreposta sobre os gêneros de retratos e fotografia documental, tendo as pessoas como seu assunto principal, Diane Arbus olha de perto aqueles em que a maioria das pessoas quer desviar o olhar ou olhar para fazer julgamentos. Fotografar pessoas sempre envolveu identidade, beleza e seu lugar na sociedade de uma forma que fosse do agrado de quem iria consumir as imagens, sendo para uso pessoal, público ou científico.

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