Arbus: In The Park

City park.
A green haven tenderly cocooned within the labyrinth of concrete blocks; it is a sanctum equally suited for calisthenic endeavours as it is for introspective musings, lending a soothing refuge to whomever should seek nature’s placid embrace.
If one should by given circumstance find oneself alone in such lush surroundings, the little green patch, unbigoted and embracing, withholds the almost certain promise of a tantalizing chance encounter.  A mundane act of people-watching or a curious glance exchanged between strangers in a hurry – proving conspicuous enough to beckon a second act – might abruptly turn into an exhilarating venture – equally fortuitous as it can be perilous.
This is something the iconoclastic photographer Diane Arbus was all too familiar with.
Rather than capturing the ferocious vividness alongside New York’s conduits,Arbus eschewed busy streets and the trivially picturesque backdrop in order to confront appointed subjects in more intimate surroundings. Arbus’ masterful approach when it came to capturing the transient poignancy of the laconic encounter mirrored her own innate virtuosity of revealing a fleeting moment when her subjects were in the state between unconscious repose and cultured self depiction. 

 A mundane act of people-watching might abruptly turn into an exhilarating venture – equally fortuitous as it can be perilous.

Thus lurking and luring in the park, Arbus seemingly preyed upon her unaware subjects – almost as often as she seduced them– sometimes playing the role of the amateur photographer clumsily waving with her camera, other times making her subjects pose for hours before she was satisfied.
As curious and questioning as it is brutally divulging,  Arbus’ body of work exudes with delicious secrecy, providing proof of the silent pact made between Arbus’ and her subjects that simultaneously appear as both collaborative and conspirative, equal in their desire to be exposed, as they are to stay at the odds with their inner turmoil.

Arbus seeked to expose, to confront the un-human, to reveal the dispassionate, the apathetic and often miserable human state she frequently witnessed but that she rarely saw captured, divulging the hidden narratives and elevating her photographs to the state of allegory of the human experience. And yet the haunting intensity of Arbus work lies in her virtuosity of elevating brief and often negligible encounters to the heightened emotional state, alluding towards an enticing relationship, rather than a chance encounter. Thus the subjects portrayed are imbued in a aura of ambiguous familiarity that equally mirrors the emotional state of the figure depicted, the emotional state of the photographer, but also the one of the onlooker – resulting in a tantalizing curiousness that remains lingering.