Friday, January 9, 2015

Let’s Read Together. “On Photography” by Susan Sontag (about Diane Arbus).

Diane Arbus was widely acknowledged as an American photographer. But to tell the truth I can’t say that she is one of my favorite photographers. I’m not sure if I am fond of her subjects: dwarfs, midgets, hermaphrodites and other strange people, so called “freaks”.


When I read Susan Sontag’s opinion about Diane Arbus’s art in her famous book “On Photography”, I realized that I share her opinion absolutely.

“In photographing dwarfs, you don’t get majesty & beauty. You get dwarfs…

“…the Arbus show (at the Museum of Modern Art at 1972) lined up assorted monsters and borderline cases – most of them ugly; wearing grotesque or unflattering clothing…”

“The Arbus photographs convey the anti-humanist message…”

“Her work shows people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as repulsive, but it does not arouse any compassionate feelings… “


But then I read her biography (you can check out the detailed page on Wikipedia here) and several articles.

 I like these quotations from Diane Arbus about photography and about life:

“ I never have taken a picture I've intended. They're always better or worse.”

“Photography was a license to go whenever I wanted and to do what I wanted to do.”

“I don't know what good composition is.... Sometimes for me composition has to do with a certain brightness or a certain coming to restness and other times it has to do with funny mistakes. There's a kind of rightness and wrongness and sometimes I like rightness and sometimes I like wrongness.”

“One thing that struck me very early is that you don’t put into a photograph what’s going to come out. Or, vice versa, what comes out is not what you put in.”

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” 


“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”


I like this quotation very much:
“Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.”

This is a very wise advice but it was not able to help Diane Arbus herself… At the age of 48 she took her own life…

Maybe knowing the biography of an artist, his/her opinions and statements can help you to understand his/her work better.
Though I still agree with Susan Sontag’s opinion, and I can’t say that now I like Diane Arbus’s photographic heroes, but I can say that I appreciate her work.

Thank you for reading!