Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Diane Arbus

I had never really explored Diane Arbus' work in the past, I briefly looked at her work when I was studying but never in detail. I have recently visited Edinburgh in which at their Scottish National Gallery they are holding a major exhibiton of her work. So I had to go and have a look while I was there because nowhere close to home would hold such a big exhibition of a great Photographer like Diane Arbus. I was quite blown away by the amount of work they had of hers and the sheer amazing quality of images.

I am a big fan of black and white film, especially medium format, hence my obsession with Francesca Woodman. So I was pleased to see that most of the images on display were her medium format ones.

In some rooms every photo had an explanation, which was nice but sometimes it took your attention away from the actual photograph. All of the photographs on display were portraits, mostly of 'freaks' as people call them, and normal people she had met on the street, got to know and been invited back to their homes to photograph them in a more personal surrounding. In the lobby of the gallery they had some clippings of local newspapers reviews of the exhibition, and I kept seeing the words; disturbing and unnerving, when describing some of her portraits, I didnt think this at all, and I cant really see how other people can think it. They're not disturbing, they're pretty fascinating.

Most of the photographs I saw were stunning, the most perfect prints you could think of. The subject matter was also always interesting.

Although Arbus was from a 'rich' background she thought of it more as a hindrance or an embaressing thing, and rarely took photographs of people in high society, but when she did it was almost as if she was mocking them or showing their true colours as being miserable underneath the facade of wealth and fortune.

My favourite of the lot is the image of twin sisters, I could stare at it for hours. Also, there was a rare self-portrait of Diane Arbus when she was pregnant with her first child in 1945, she had started documenting her pregnancy in photographs to send to her husband. It was a really beautiful shot. It really opened my eyes to what an amazing and inspiring photographer Diane Arbus was. And once again I find myself confused and annoyed that like Francesca Woodman, she commited suicide.

I think from now on I will probably use Diane Arbus' work as more of an inspiration than I would in the past. There really should be more exhibitions like this that are more accessible to people all over the UK. This exhibition was a part of the 'Artist Rooms Tour' which is in association with Tate Modern and I think this is what they are trying to achieve by putting on major exhibitions in smaller cities in the UK.
Here are just a few of Diane Arbus' inspiring portraits;


Bethany Burnett said...

I've always thought the photo of the twin girls bares a striking resemblance to your sister, Donna.

Leanne Surfleet said...

Yeah I know what you mean. They do look alot alike. I cant wait to go see this exhibition again, its amazing. x

Clémence L. said...

I'd study Diane Arbus in art.I'd like her job. Particularly the social link that was instored on this work.

Floyce Alexander said...

I love your response to her work. I saw the traveling exhibit some years ago at the Walker
Art Center in Minneapolis, after discovering her 1972 monograph while I was living in Amherst, Massachusetts. Ever since then I've been trying to write about her work and life. In the very early sixties, in Seattle, I knew people like the so-called freaks and demimonde she moved among and of whom she made her inimitable photographic art.

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