Saturday, December 02, 2006

Through the looking glass

Several weeks back I pulled the Style section from the Chronicle because of an article on Amy Arbus, daughter of Diane Arbus. There is a book coming out featuring her photos from 1980-1990 called On the Street, images culled from her time doing a weekly photo spread for the Village Voice. The article speaks of the 80's being "in" again and sure enough the day I read the article I went to Point Isabel to let Wyatt romp and there was young woman in a tiered mini skirt with leggings. It looked horrible I confess, if for no other reason than her colour choices {shudder}.

It occurred to me, as I read the article, that I probably poured over the photos when they were fresh as I read the Voice regularly in those years (hush I was a child prodigy obviously since I'm only 26 now). As I was invested in fashion and steeped in stop bath and fixer in those days I probably spent an inordinate amount of time critiquing her work with all the wisdom of a twit. If I was to view those photographs now I would hope that I have gained enough respect to discuss what is amazing or timeless or poignant (or some such collection of pompous words) about her work as well as seeing how I might have done something different but hopefully at least as effective.

Arbus says that today people aren't able to afford the time to construct "outrageous outfits. They don't feel like being visually noticed is a key to their success". When I read that a few weeks ago I vehemently disagreed. I think I still do but for a different reason than my initial response which was "Have you been to Berkeley?" I think people still think being noticed by their appearance is a key to success but the measure of success has changed. There does seem to be more of a push to blend into one or another of the genres that are "popular" which is definitely removed from the edges, as I saw it in the 80's, where the idea was to push boundaries, to step outside of any of the boxes. It was easier to feel like an outsider because the punk images, for example, were relegated to the corners of the country, their images not as easily spread in those days before the ubiquitousness of internet flooding people consciousness with images near and far.

The other side of this piece was section about her and her mother in regards to competition, what with both of them being photographers. The was some resonance there for me as well as I started constructing poems and short stories while in elementary school (told you I was a prodigy, sheesh). Did I mention my mother was an English professor? That she graduated Phi Cappa Beta from Hunter College? That she scored a post-doc fellowship in England. Somewhere in my high school years she started writing, poems, short stories and damn it they were good. Not the style I worked in but still freaking good. For a few years in there we were both writing a lot, me more closeted, her submitting things right and left, getting published, doing readings. I was proud but silent about my work and fairly content about my status. This blog is the most public my writing (and my photography) has ever been. It's also the most disciplined I have ever been about my writing and while it is a tad embarrassing that it took an essentially public journal to tap into something (not sure what) I am grateful for it nonetheless. Sunny is writing more lately too, mostly political satire songs for the Raging Grannies, so once again we are side by side, this time separated by the width of this country, working our crafts in our own way.

But this time, no more tiered mini skirts, not even hanging in my closet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Arbus' sentiment regarding outrageous outfits and success assumes that once they were connected. i guess whether or not that's true depends on what kind of success you are looking for, but personally i don't recall a recent period where that was true...unless you're trying to break into show business.