Once upon a time, when my work/life balance was tipped oh so favourably towards the life side of the fence, I worked two afternoons, and two nights a week. The other part of my week comprised, completing an 80 page major assignment on Sydney Transport, completing two subjects externally, footy training and holding down the back pocket of a team that fell an agonising 5 points short of reaching the grand final that year (with the lowest points conceded in the comp for a mile mind you). The shifts meant lots of music playing, study time and also entitled me to do a complimentary course each semester. Everything from Excel, M.Y.O.B, Screen Studies - Studying History through cinema, and best of all a couple of terms of Black & White and darkroom photography. As well as being exposed to the magical process of pictures coming to life and forming before your eyes; the lecturer also introduced me to the wonderful work of Diane Arbus. There was one picture that just mesmerised me. It was at some sort of red carpet, celebrity filled event, there was a blur of crowd, the buzz and excitement of fame, the flash of lenses, and a lock of flowing blonde hair on someone fabulous, however, it was all just a blur for the shutter had shut focussed on an endearingly plain person, just standing bemusedly amid the chaos, looking like they were thinking about buying carrots or something similarly incongruous to their surrounds. I’m still looking for it, but have also just borrowed a biography which has made me appreciate this talented capturer of ‘deviant and marginal people’ even more. But it is the unravelling of her attitude and life force that is proving to be the most inspiring.
It is almost up there with the terrific ‘Just Kids’ for words to apply to ones own adventures and in the description of such a potent and nurturing love/mentor/partner (well, what I’ve read so far anyway):
“That it isn’t question of doing art, it is a question of making art what you do”
“All artists collect images”
“it was not the end result that mattered, but the doing”
“She was examining rather than interpreting the world”
“A photograph suggested alternatives - choices. The act of photography was ambiguous and contradictory, like herself”.
Arbus was also described in such glowing terms:
“She had that instantaneous intuition coupled with a cherishing slowness of response”
“Because no matter how well we thought we knew her, she was elusive, an enchantress. Anything could happen when they were with her, she was a catalyst, a troublemaker, a source of joy & despair.”
“She was expanding, rather than interpreting the world”
One of her teachers at school wrote her destiny in her yearbook would be “To shake the tree of life and bring down fruits unheard of”.
If only I had a camera, and more hours in the day to read.