Thursday, October 20, 2005

Freak show

Like every good Goldsmiths student, I went through a photography stage, reading Susan Sontag's On Photography, then spending about, hmmm, a week poring over pictures by Andreas Gursky, Walker Evans and Diane Arbus. Then I got bored and moved onto, I dunno, skateboarding, or something.

Anyway, those Arbus pics really stuck in my head, so I was quite excited about going to the exhibition of her work at the V&A last night. And it was very good, spanning 15 years (1956-71) of her portraits - of ugly women, New York, transvestites, women who look like men, circus freaks, celebrities, the disabled and old nudist couples. It had bits of her writing too (she was amazingly eloquent, in an oblique poetic kind of way) and memorabilia (less interesting - though it's quite exciting to peer into the lens of one of her old cameras). I also managed to resist the temptation to piss everyone off by pointing at photos and exclaiming in exaggerated American accent, "Dude, look that one! What a totally gross freak!"

It's hard to say anything about the photos. Sometimes when you try to analyse great photography or beautiful poetry, pull out the meaning, it gets so frustrating. You just want to give up and shout, "It doesn't mean this, or say this! There is no better way of saying it than the thing itself!" Perhaps that's what Arbus meant when she said, "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." But probably not.

No comments: