At the Diane Arbus Exhibition, ‘Beginning’, at the Hayward Gallery (https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/hayward-gallery-art/diane-arbus-beginning) till May 6, they encourage you to find your own path through. Inevitably I found myself facing the ten photos I knew so well, the boy holding a toy grenade and 9 iconic others. The journey is a revelation. I ‘got’ the simple engaged street photos, or the movie moments shot off a local screen, or performers in moments of not performing, I ‘got’ her ability to see a picture and take it. Her finding a frame before the camera was lifted, and how that frame has persisted time and fashion. In each picture there is a stillness, a breath is lightly held, the subject recognises the process, and she engages with the subject. The hesitation is still there, frame after held frame, pulling me in. It is a wonderful exhibition.
There is a space created in front of a movie camera where an actor works. It is an agreement about truth in that time and that space - the agreement is held there. In photographing a stranger In ‘the street’ a similar contract is created. An understanding develops between me and the stranger, we both know why we are there. We don’t necessarily share the same reason, but, for me, it is where the interest lies. 1+1 equalling more than 2. There is tension between my intention and theirs, mine to see and theirs to be seen.
I bought a Fuji X100T about 2 years ago. It has one beautiful lens, a 23mm (it is equivalent of a 35mm). I take it most places with me, and I try to take an interesting picture every day. Encountering a new place I see it with the clear and simple 3x2 fuji frame. This camera has forced me to understand commitment, for a shot to work I need to be inside the situation looking out, not outside looking in. The difficulty is usually in overcoming shyness, the gaining permission thing. The anxiety that, in asking, I’ll loose the shot. Experience shows me if I do loose it, it wasn’t mine to take, and, when it is agreed, it’s always different and often better than I had hoped for.
This little unassuming camera, does not intimidate… me or the subject. It has been a liberation. Looking at Diane Arbus’s pictures I can see this camera has taught me how to recognise the flashes of imagination turned into frames that have a shared truthfulness and curiosity, as fresh now as they were 60 years ago.