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Monday, 27 March 2017


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Mr. Wood was interviewed in the BBC4 series "The Genius of Photography" where he gives an account of meeting Arbus that day in the park, offering some context of what he was like as a kid and his family life at the time. Very interesting and quite charming.

From make-believe boy terrorist to insurance salesman doesn't sound like a big leap.

Your excellent Arbus post led me to the past post which led me to April 2007 when it was predicated that still photography would be video, in 10 years. Which is now.


Your blog is a time machine. I fast forwarded to 2017 and it has not yet occurred.


I have now turned into a junky reading posts from more than ten years ago. I love it.

Well that's a fun side-story! Thanks so much for putting this out there for us, Ben (and Mike)!

When I hear the backstory and/or update of a famous image or its subject I am reminded with just how really meaningless and misleading photographs usually are. The closest relation to this Arbus image that I know of is this image by William Klein. Similar story of a prompted moment in a completely benign children's play session. But it became an icon for anger and resentment worldwide.

Related to Ben's story, I've always found it amazing that Bruce Davidson managed not only to get to know so many of the subjects from his renowned documentary work but he also kept in touch with them for many years! You can get a taste of this from this talk he gave at the Strand bookstore not long ago. To me this is what most strongly set Davidson's work above most other documentary shooters.

Diane Arbus was an early influence of mine after my Vietnam Era service stint was finished and I returned to college. Wrote a paper about her for Photography class with which my professor was not fully appreciative of (he became an Ansel Adams Biographer). I think the photograph of the boy and the grenade was extremely symbolic of the times as was the photo of the person or persons in skimmers at some political event. I was always taken by the text describing some of those she photographed. Revealing in many ways- from my memory. Still have the book, I'll have to take another trip through its pages.

Great backstory, clearly he is the kid in the photo. Seeing the others of him as a young man gives one pause to consider how our impressions of photos may not always be what they seem to be on first glance. The contact sheet you posted on the previous related post demonstrate the power of working a subject and how much difference can occur in a relatively short amount of time spent exploring the possibilities.

That Arbus picture always associates in my mind, a kind of association of opposites, with the Emmet Gowin image of the child holding an egg in each hand. A wee way down this page: https://alchetron.com/Emmet-Gowin-578582-W

When I think of how many photos of children at play are not being taken these days, it saddens me a bit.

I am fairly fearless when it comes to pointing my camera at many subjects (especially with my nighttime photography), but even so, photographing other people's children is a line I very rarely cross these days, even though the law doesn't (yet!) prohibit it.

Being a middle-aged man, it's just too easy for people to draw the wrong conclusion. I simply don't need the hassles that (too often) accompany such unwarranted and baseless suspicion. 8^(

I notice there is a distant figure behind the boy with the hand grenade. No doubt if that photo had been taken today the figure would be Photo Shopped out.

Great read. This is the sort of post that keeps me coming back.

Even though I am not a huge fan of Diane Arbus, I do appreciate some of her work, and this piece is one I always remember. It has been a joy to read about Colin and to learn about the person beyond the picture. Not trying to put salt on a wound here, but I feel the Arbus Foundation should bequeath Colin with an original print or two.

These stories are always interesting. They remind you the people in this kind of pictures are actual persons, not mere graphic elements in the composition. (And I say this despite myself, as I use passers-by as graphic elements in my pictures.)
Having said that, no human story of this kind is more interesting than that of Rich, then known as 'Rat', the teen boy that features in Mary Ellen Mark's "Rat and Mike With a Gun" and several other photographs in Mark's "Streets Of The Lost" essay. Although I believe this story has been covered here, I'll leave this link anyway:

A comment on Kenneth Tanaka's comment.

I've never seen that talk by Bruce Davidson before. But looking at his Outside Inside books, I was struck by his obvious love for his subjects. It doesn't take words, it's just implicit in the photographs.

I love everything about this post.

From the NY Magazine story: "She also knew, intuitively, that there was a cost to being on the other side of her lens. “This photographing,” she writes, “is really the business of stealing.”
The kind of quote that stops you in your tracks....

Interesting stuff! Here is what I believe to be a very astute quote from Wood that I included in my Arbus book An Emergency in Slow Motion:
"So, back to Arbus for a minute. She unmasked, or opened up, or sought out her own heart in people (she photographed), but I think she peeled away the wrong thing. As much as I find beauty and love and sympathy in what she did, I also think Arbus went down this pathway that brought her to an inconclusive place. What she ultimately found, I think, is nothing. When I look at her art, I see a woman who was misled in many ways by herself."

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