Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin teacher written study example
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Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin teacher written study example

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Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin teacher written study example Diane Arbus and Nan Goldin teacher written study example Document Transcript

  • Jaskirt Dhaliwal (teacher) – A2 Personal Study Example “A study looking at the insider and outsider’s approach to documentary photography. I will specifically compare and contrast the work of Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus.” Diane Arbus’s approach to her subjects was from an outsider’s point of view. She didn’t build or have any previous relationships with her subjects and it could be argued that she documented them for her own curiosity’s sake. Does this then spill into the realm of exploitation? Where does the boundary lie, who gains the most from this casual encounter and photographic moment? Diane Arbus is one of the most well known documentary photographers off all time, her work has been publicised and exhibited the world over, her subjects viewed with the air of ridicule, disgust, pity or curiosity. Indeed the historical and political connotations of her work are famously publicised, Susan Sontag (1973, pg.39) states that Arbus’s photographs undercut politics “by suggesting a world in which everybody is an alien, hopelessly isolated, immobilized in mechanical, crippled identities and relationships.” The time period in which Arbus photographed her so called freaks was in the 1960-70’s and a lot of her subjects, including midgets, giants and mental patients, were a taboo subject in America. The majority of her work focused on the people on the margins of society, those without a voice and victimised through their difference. Does her work reinforce the idea of her subjects being victims? Susan Sontag seems to think so, indeed she goes as far to say that “Arbus’s work…concentrates on victims, or the unfortunate— but without the compassionate purpose that such a project is expected to serve...a dissociated point of view….unsentimental empathy with (the photograph’s) subjects.” (Sontag, 1973, pg.33). My belief is that the dissociation that Sontag comments on can be related to the approach that Arbus uses to photograph her subjects. She not only works as an outsider, she is an outsider and so her work doesn’t show sympathy to her subjects, why would she be empathetic to people she doesn’t know or have any connection too? I believe her work was influenced by her curiosity of the unknown and selfish motivation to get away from her own pampered background and live someone else’s reality. Nan Goldin reinforces this idea, she says of Arbus that “Perhaps out of the desire not to be herself, she tried on the skins of others and took us along for the trip. Arbus was obsessed with people who manifested trauma, maybe because her own crisis was so internalized.” (Goldin, 1995). This last point is in particular reference to her suicide. Interestingly the work of Nan Goldin, although taken from an insiders point of view, has a lot of connections in content to Arbus’s work, she too photographs the things that are supposedly on the margins of society. However the major difference with Nan Goldin is that she is an insider, Jaskirt K Dhaliwal. A2 - Personal Study. Teachers: Jaskirt Dhaliwal & Richard Radnidge. 1
  • the people she photographs are her friends, friends she sees as family. Her work is her life, and her life is her work. The intensity and meaning behind her work is incredibly powerful and it is because she is documenting her closest friends and has their full permission that she is able to capture such private moments. Cont on the context of Nan Goldin’s work and compare to Diane Arbus. Compare and contrast 2 images and look at technical aspects Diane Arbus used a twin les reflex camera with a waist level view finder and shot in black and white. The use of a camera that has a waist level viewfinder and square format is an indication of the time and thought she spend taking her photographs. Her’s was not a snapshot, it was calculated and she had an idea in mind of what she wanted to document. That is not to say that Nan Goldin didn’t but technically how Arbus used her camera was more imperative to her work. The subject was always composed in the central of her photographs, because they were the most vital part, she didn’t just capture candid moments but often made them with her vision and eye for detail. Indeed for this photograph below she took several photographs and moved her way around the boy until he was relaxed and bored enough to strike this startling pose, and she then got her perfect shot. Whereas with Goldin the camera she uses is a 35mm Leica M6, known to have one of the quietest shutters on the market. This is very apt for her candid fly on the wall style of photography. For Goldin it doesn’t matter whether there is enough light or a slow shutter, she will take a picture regardless because it is the content which is most important. Her work sets out to challenge and engage people about gender politics and she does this with candour. Technically Goldin uses flash obtrusively and unlike Arbus shoots in vibrant colour that reveals these private and personal moments and which I Jaskirt K Dhaliwal. A2 - Personal Study. Teachers: Jaskirt Dhaliwal & Richard Radnidge. 2
  • believe give her work the realism that would be lost if she used black and white. Goldin says that “work originally came from the snapshot aesthetic . . . Snapshots are taken out of love and to remember people, places, and shared times. They're about creating a history by recording a history” (Goldin, 1995). In regards to this very candid photograph it not only shows the tender love between the couple, but at the time of being taken in the 1980’s being gay was not as widely accepted as today, and so it has that shock value too. For me the power is in the tenderness, the man caresses his lovers cheek, Goldin has captured an intimate and powerful photograph. In comparison to Arbus’s photograph of the boy with the hand grenade … Conclude on the meaning behind Arbus/Goldin work: how it relates to my work on a spectrum of documentary photography and the insider/outsider role. Bibliography Sontag, S. (1973) On Photography. London: Penguin. Goldin, N. (1995) REVIEW: "'Untitled - Diane Arbus' by Nan Goldin”. American Suburb X Photography and Culture. [Online] Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2008/01/theory-untitled-diane-arbus-bynan.html [Accessed on 29 October 2010]. Jaskirt K Dhaliwal. A2 - Personal Study. Teachers: Jaskirt Dhaliwal & Richard Radnidge. 3