Homage to other photographers
1. Diane Arbus
Diane Arbus specialised in photographing marginalized groups such as members of the LGBTQ+ community, strippers, carnival performers, nudists, dwarves, children, mothers, couples, elderly people. The photograph below taken in 1961, “Jack Dracula at a Bar”, depicts a fully tattooed man who worked as an entertainer in side shows and circuses. By photographing and published her images, she aimed to show the world that the members of these marginalised groups were no different to those in society who considered they were “normal”.
I selected this particular image because at the time it was taken body art was not considered acceptable in society, rather a curiosity to be viewed, but not indulged in in any way. Today tattoos and body piercings are becoming the norm, and many of my close friends have a least one tattoo. Furthermore, most towns or cities in the UK now have at least one tattoo parlour.
A close friend of mine was willing to be photographed, showing his tattoos. Surprisingly, when I asked him to pose, he naturally went into the same pose as Jack Dracula in Diane Arbus’s photograph without me asking him to. He had not seen Jack Dracula before that day. Coincidence?
The main difference between these two photographs is that at the time Jack Dracula was performing in side shows tattoos like his were not the norm. It was not considered “respectable” to have any tattoos, even hidden from sight. He belonged to a marginalised group, to use Diane Arbus’ view. Today, tattoos are considered acceptable, and in contrast to Jack Dracula, the model in my photograph would be considered “normal” and acceptable. The happy smile on my friend’s face shows how proud he of his tattoos, unlike the blank expression on Jack Dracula’s face. His face gives nothing away.
So the original intention of Diane Arbus’s photograph of Jack Dracula was to help normalise his appearance by taking the photograph and displaying it publicly. Onlookers may over time become used to his appearance and accept it as the norm.
2. Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Margaret Cameron specialised in taking soft focus portraits using natural light, no studio lights, and in black and white. The first image below is one taken by Julia Margaret Cameron of her niece, Julia Jackson (mother of Virgina Wolf). The second is one of a series of photographs I took in the same genre.
I find her work inspiring because she was from a conventional Victorian family, born in India in 1815 and started taking photographs later in life – at the age of 48 when her daughter and son in law gave her a camera. This was at a time when Victorian women were engulfed in domesticity. She had her critics, who ridiculed her soft focus technique as “out of focus”. However, she ignored the critics, and eventually became a respected figure in her field. She died in 1897.