Take a break from the sanitised world of Instagram to immerse yourself in the never-before-seen early work of pioneering photographer Diane Arbus. The curated work at the MET covers the period from 1956-1962 in and around the boroughs of NYC as she develops her style of photographing the fringes of society.
It’s amazing to think that Arbus’s boundary-pushing career began 60 years ago, and how much has changed in photography in that time. Many of society’s taboos have been broken down, and with our changing relationship with the camera, it’s worth wondering if we will ever see this type of authentic documentary photography with an artist of Arbus’ caliber again.
The photographic image has had resurgence with the strange collision of technology and social media in the form of Instagram. By all accounts, on any given day Instagram users are drowning in 80 million shared images. The democratization of the medium has allowed anyone with a smart phone the ability be more in tune with the world around them, to capture the moment, and to develop a creative outlet to express their views instantly. However, the proliferation of imagery may devalue the power of the photograph as a stylised throw-away digital item.
More than all the technological advances in photography, it is our collective understanding of what an image conveys and how it may relate to our personal brand. Contemporary photographers may find it difficult to penetrate the veneer of what a subject is trying to portray or skilfully project, in this digital age where there are a staggering number of selfies, edited, filtered and uploaded into social media each day.
Who knows what the future of photography has in store, but seeing exhibitions like Arbus’s can remind us of the power of the medium and its ability to convey a deeper meaning about who we are. —P
EXHIBITION ON NOW: July 12–November 27, 2016 / Exhibition Location: The Met Breuer, 2nd floor
Top photo: Taxicab driver at the wheel with two passengers, N.Y.C. 1956.