Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Diane Arbus

I'm reading the autobiography of Diane (pronounced Dee-yan) Arbus right now. She's a very famous photographer who did most of her work in the 60s. She started out shooting fashion with her husband, Allan, but then branched out on her own. Her speciality was shooting "freaks." Transvestites, nudists, circus freaks like the guy whose hands grew out of his shoulders (he was called Seal Boy) and the hairy woman and the man that was over seven feet tall. That sort of thing. Ol' Diane was pretty messed up.

She battled depression a lot, and my guess is that she had some other chemical imbalances going on upstairs, so she was a little wacky. Some people love her photographs, some people hate them. They make a lot of people uncomfortable because they force you to look at things that aren't "normal."

I, personally, am not a huge Diane Arbus fan. I think her photographs look too much like snapshots and that there isn't much that's "artistic" about them. More documentary, less creative art. That's just me, though. Some people would argue that the snapshot esthetic is her "style." I don't think that's style. I think it's a snapshot that anyone could take. Granted, not anyone would go and search out the freaks of the world so there's something to that, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm not a big Arbus fan, but I am intrigued by all things photographic, and therefore love to read about the lives of the "great" ones, even if I don't personally think they are great.

Unfortunately, Diane is having the same effect on my noodle that reading Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar" did. I had to put that down after awhile, going back to finish it later, because it's so dang depressing. Sort of sucks you in. I'm over three-quarters of the way through it, though, so I'll plod along and get through it.

It's amazing when a book has that kind of power.

If you're interested in seeing the work of Diane Arbus, give her a google. She committed suicide in '71 so you can't ring her up or anything, but there's plenty out there to see. If I had to pick a favorite Arbus image, it would have to be "Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park," made in 1962. It's haunting to me.


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