Intent, Effect & The Inbetween

24 Jul

arbus couple

Diane Arbus observed, “Everybody has this thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that’s what people observe.  You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw … Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way, but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you.  And that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect”. 

In this Arbus print a couple are photographed in the bedroom of their apartment.  It is apparent there is an imbalance in the relationship between the woman and the man.  In an obvious gesture of affection the woman has draped an arm around her boyfriend’s shoulder.  In the context of the photograph being taken it is clear that the woman intends that this be seen as a manifestation of the closeness of their relationship, that there is an intimacy that bonds them together, almost as one united entity.  The man, more diminutive, hands in pockets, is not looking at his partner, rather he regards the photographer.  His body language is of compliance, resigned acceptance of his situation.  The clear inference is that the larger woman dominates him; she can do whatever she pleases, because she can and in fact chooses to dominate him.  In this moment we see the woman’s intent and we register the gap between that desired image and the effect, that which we see because the woman cannot control the entire environment.