Tag Archives: cloths

Research Point – A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing by Diane Arbus

A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C. 1966 photographed by Diane Arbus.  This image brings back memories of my childhood, as my Uncle and Aunt looked similar to this when I was just a toddler.  My Uncle had that Teddy-boy look of the 60’s and my Aunt had her hair in this style which must have been very common at that time on both sides of the Atlantic (I believe that it was known as the Beehive).  The image clearly suggests an awkwardness in the attitude of the husband and wife, neither appear relaxed or very cheerful.  The wife appears distant and unhappy whilst the husband is trying to make more of an effort; but there appears to be a mix of friendliness and sadness in his eyes whilst his mouth suggests a faint smile.  Perhaps they have argued, perhaps the husband likes the photographer Diane Arbus and his wife is aware of it.  Perhaps his young wife feels trapped, her life over before it really began torn by her youth and her duty and love as a mother of two young children, one of which is disabled and likely to be quit a handful on top of that of the baby.  The baby appears fairly quite and happy whilst the boy may be sensing his parents mood as he gives the appearance of acting and looking confused and restless.  I note that the mother has clearly spent time on her appearance with her cloths, hair, make-up and eye-brows.  Is this for the benefit of the camera, herself or for the trip out?

This picture is the subject of an essay by Liz Jobey and was published in Singular Images, Essays on Remarkable Photographs.  Edited by Sophie Howarth and published by Tate Publishing.  (This book is currently out-of-print and I obtained a copy second-hand through Amazon.

According to Jobey’s essay this photo was taken on a Sunday in 1966 and the parents were taking their children out for the day.  Arbus had got to know this young N.Y. Brooklyn family and had visited then at their apartment and took some photos there as well as this one.  their names were Richard and Marylin Daurin, Richard was an immigrant from Italy working as a car mechanic he met his wife in high school and Marylin was still only 16 when they were married.  They had three children, the two in the picture is Richard Jnr. and Dawn.  Marylin was 23 when this photo was taken and she told Arbus that she was often mistaken for Elizabeth Taylor (which I suspect she encouraged by her choice of hair and make-up).  This image was first published in a special family issue of the British ‘Sunday Times’ titled ‘The American families’ with photos of the Daurin’s in the Bronx juxtaposed against the life-style of a wealthy Westchester couple.

When Arbus sent this photo to Peter Crookston the magazine’s deputy editor for the Sunday Times supplement she of Richard and Marylin, “They were undeniably close in a painful sort of way.”  However, Crookston re-wrote this for the caption as, “Richard Jnr. is mentally retarded and the family is close in a painful sort of way.”  Arbus later wrote a letter to Crookston complaining about his miss-quotation.

Arbus, by her own admission had a way with charming people in to posing for her and she became famous for seeking out people of the fringes of society and taking their portraits.  These people whom many would derogatory call freaks would be mentally ill down and outs, dwarfs, transsexuals, etc.  Sadly Arbus committed suicide in 1971.

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Exercise-1-Project-2-Masquerades

In the following examples, the artists have taken on the personality of another individual by dressing as the subject and acting as the subject and standing in for the subject.


Photo by Nikki S Lee. This linked image is available to view online: http://tiffobenii.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/artwork_images_139001_379786_nikkis-lee.jpg”

Nikki S Lee has taken this idea and used both a mixture of observation and performance to replace an individual from a group shot and replace that person with herself.  To obtain these images she has assimilated herself in to a range of social groups from Punks, Hispanics, Strippers and Yuppies.  The photos were either taken by a friend or a member of the infiltrated group.  Lee researched her subjects scrutinizing the social conventions, dress and body-language.  She has even photoshopped to change her weight, age, size and even skin colour to blend in to the group.


Photo by Nikki S Lee. This linked image is available to view online: http://annex.guggenheim.org/collections/media/902/2001.3_ph_web.jpg”

In Lee’s work I do see a little voyeuristic style as we appear to be looking at other peoples private snap shots of friends in a social world outside of our own.  Although Lee had infiltrated these groups in order to get her images I would say that using the word exploitation is too strong as I don’t think her intention is to exploit her subjects.  I believe that she is attempting to break the myths that surround these social-groups.


Photo by Trish Morrissey. This linked image is available on line: http://trishmorrissey.com/media/images/front-w/Sylvia-Westbrook.jpg”

Trish Morrissey has used self-portraiture in a novel way by approaching groups and families (strangers to her) and asking if she could change cloths with them and be photographed posing as the member of the group or family that she represented by wearing that persons cloths, for her project ‘Front’.  In another project, ‘seven Years’ she has taken the idea of family snaps and with the help of her sister, props and costume she has re-staged old photos to link her family memories with her own experiences and reappraise her family relationships.


This linked image is available on line: http://trishmorrissey.com/media/images/seven-years-w/September-4th-1972.jpg

I would have to admit that I would find it bizarre if someone came up to me and asked to swap cloths for a photo.  However, dependant on the mood I was in at the time and that I they has sufficiently convinced me of their sincerity I may well co-operate as I am not shy at taking-part in the unusual.


Photo by Trish Morrissey. This linked image is available on line: http://trishmorrissey.com/media/images/the-failed-realist-w/Party-Girl.jpg”

Morrissey, has used deadpan combined with surrealist art for this style of work.