The grenade, grimace and claw-like hand seem to point to a desperate future, hysterical and militarized. The picture works because the strangeness of the boy is staged within a kindly natural scene: there is even a rhyme between those paired tree trunks and the child's spindly legs. Arbus's subject, here and elsewhere, is the discrepancy between imagined and idealized worlds, represented here by the trees and the sunlight in the park, and the violence apparently promised by the child. She imagined dystopia, but always regarded it from the point of view of the Garden of Eden (23)
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
Photo of the Day: Child with Toy Hand Grenade
I'm currently working my way through Phaidon's The Photo Book and was struck by this picture by Diane Arbus. The commentary to the photo helped me understand why:
It's interesting to compare this interpretation from the unknom Phaidon commentator with that of Wikipedia's. The former tries to grasp the photo within some kind of wider symbolic context and perhaps manages to grasp to the heart of its message. The latter interpretation, in true "historical-critical" fashion, is content to describe the surface image and tell us how the photo was taken. The result is that the power of the photo is lost in irrelevant detail.
Or is it irrelevant?