Monday, 27 September 2010
A week or so ago, I was visiting the patient's library of what used to be called the Queen St. Mental Health Centre, pacing the stacks, regarding the titles. Bearing a stamp by that old name was an original copy of the 1972 classic of photography, Diane Arbus.
Sadly for me, the book was classified as Reference and therefore not allowed to circulate outside the library. It would be preferable to peruse the pages in private, but the semi-public sphere which was here would have to suffice just nice.
I sat down and had a look and this book of photographs quickly, and with some apparent ease, utterly blew my mind. I copied out some of the text --
"Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe. There's a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."
"Nudist camps was a terrific subject for me. I've been to three of them over a period of years. The first time I went was in 1963 when I stayed a whole week and that was really thrilling. It was the seediest camp and for that reason, for some reason, it was also the most terrific. It was really falling apart. The place was mouldy and the grass wasn't growing."
"Sometimes I can see a photograph or a painting, I see it and I think, That's not the way it is. I don't mean a feeling of, I don't like it. I mean the feeling that this is fantastic, but there's something wrong. I guess it's my own sense of what a fact is. Something will come up in me very strongly of No, a terrific No. It's a totally private feeling I get of how different it really is."