By Kiaz Hussain
The unusual can be liberating. Diane Arbus was a woman, an American photographer who pushed the boundaries in the images that she captured. Although many branded her work as offbeat and often times dark, she managed to create a body of work that has endured long past her death. Most notably remembered for her black and white photographs that captured the surreal, Arbus never shied away from photographing the abnormal. It was this unique trait that has allowed her work to stand the test of time.
It was by chance that I discovered her work was going on display at the Timothy Taylor Gallery in London so I thought I would go and check it out. Arbus’s work has been challenging to say the least but it brings out the insecurities in all of us. Although we may not admit it to ourselves, there is always a feeling of trepidation when faced with the prospect of encountering someone or somebody that may be physically limited or slightly disabled due to the fear of saying something that may be deemed stupid or offensive. Arbus makes us accept the realities of life with her images, of a world littered with imperfections. It is that brash quality that oozes out of her photographs combined with the convictions of our immediate judgments. It is within those parallels, she should be applauded for her work in raising awareness towards a minority that seems to be mocked, pitied or ridiculed for being different.
Having your work displayed in a gallery or an exhibition can be quite daunting but there is something far more rewarding about showcasing your work to a vast majority in an open public space. There were no seats situated anywhere on the ground as the primary purpose of a gallery is to make your way around the room leisurely glancing and taking in every image one by one almost in a repetitive motion. The black and white photographs seemed to be mounted on a white squared background, which in turn really gave the photographs more incentive to grab your attention. Each image is positioned a couple of inches from the next gradually diverting your attention across the wall giving you ample time to look and reflect on the images presented in front of you and one of the added benefits of a gallery space is the use of lighting, which in this instance was a soft light that can visually enhance the photographs on display.
It’s easy to walk away from an exhibition like this with a plethora of various conclusions, trying to analyze and deconstruct the meaning behind the photographs. Each person will have his or her own interpretation and at the end of the day that’s what Diane Arbus intended to do, to make you question your own decisions. The blind couple, the physical lookalikes, these are just examples of our own apprehensive attitudes to the perfect form. Within these images of sadness, of pity, of fear, Diane Arbus reminds us that we should accept ourselves for who we are without giving a damn about how others may distinguish us.