one day at a time

Schäfersee (#370)

Schäfersee © Verena Fischer 2012

Schäfersee © Verena Fischer 2012

Camera: Zorki 3C | ISO : 400 | Focal Length: 50.0 mm | Film Make: Kodak Tri-X | #4


Yesterday we went to the Diane Arbus exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. I had seen it before, but I was happy to go again since I find her work quite interesting. The exhibition was quite likely a version of the recent traveling Diane Arbus exhibition called Revelations. It features about 200 of her photographs combined with a Chronology of her life and insights into her diaries, cameras and correspondence.

After seeing the exhibition for the first time I decided to read a biography of Arbus by Patricia Bosworth. The book is not bad and reasonably well written, but it strikes me as somewhat speculative. Certain important figures in Arbus’ life, notably her children, did not agree to participate in the making of the book, which makes especially the guesses at Arbus’ inner life rather questionable. Quite likely it also has factual errors, since it claims that Arbus used a Leica in her early years, which seems unlikely looking at her 35mm shots. In fact the exhibition referenced a Nikon instead. I’d call the book a well researched guess that had enough meat to be interesting, but not enough to be entirely believable.

I can’t really pinpoint why I find Arbus’ work interesting. In fact I can say that I only really like a small subset of her pictures, but somehow the rest seems conceptually interesting. I find her vision rather democratic, finding weird characters not only among the freak shows that she used to frequent, but also among the totally normal or rich people. What also strikes me is that although she knew a lot about composition and technicalities, since she had worked as a fashion photographer before her more artistic work, she often went against the typical rules. At times her pictures look like snapshots although her contact sheets reveal that quite a few of those were rather planned, like for example the picture of the Jewish giant and his parents.

Maybe what’s interesting about her work is that her vision is so different from what most photographers look for in their pictures. Her photographs were not exactly documentary style, they are not beautiful as such, nor ugly for that matter. There is just something different about them. Some actually reveal a rather troubled person behind the camera, while others are just very humorous or just altogether strange, without having any specific message behind them. As you can see I am rather lost in speculation. I have no real idea why her work seems interesting. There is just “something about it”, whatever it might be.

I took my Zorki with me yesterday, so again I show you one of my film shots from my last roll of film. It was taken at a lake not far from here.


One response

  1. I love very much the Arbus’s photo (but it took me time ) and I have the “Revelations” book (it cost me a fortune but it was worthwhile!). If you are interested in her work (which oft is not easy) there is an interesting comment in the second chapter of the Susan Sontag’s book “On photography” about american photography.

    August 20, 2012 at 8:47 pm

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