Through the Lens of Culture

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know" - Diane Arbus
Diane Arbus, Puerto Rican Woman
with beauty mark
, 1965.











1960s artists begin to question
Societal norms
American consumerism
This questioning leads to a marked rejection of convention
  • Who determines how a photo should look?
  • What is photography?
  • What is appropriate photographic subject matter?
  • What is the role and responsibility of the photographer?
Robert Frank, Los Angeles, 1955 - 1956.

















Robert Frank, Indiannapolis, Indiana, 1955 - 1956.











Structuralism = philosophical approach that analyzes society by looking at cultural phenomena, particularly signs, that have hidden underlying meanings that can be decoded

Robert Frank, Ranch Market - Hollywood, 1955 - 1956.











Snapshot Aesthetic = an apparently uncomposed everyday subject that is photographed in a way that mimics instantaneous sight
Three shows coined the phrase:
  • Twelve Photographers of the American Social Landscape at Brandeis University in 1966
  • Toward a Social Landscape at George Eastman House in 1966
  • New Documents show at MOMA in 1967
Lee Friedlander, Florida (with sexy eyes), 1963.











Characteristics of snapshot aesthetic:

Use of available light only
Deliberately imperfect
Detached and impersonal approach
Garry Winogrand, Part of the All Women Are Beautiful series, 1964.











Lee Friedlander, New York, 1963.











Social Landscape strategies:

Catch subjects unaware
No previsualization
Tilted framing
"I photograph to find out what the world looks like photographed." - Garry Winogrand
Garry Winogrand, World's Fair, New York, 1964.











“'Authority lost its privileged place almost overnight. Authority figures- fathers, mothers, cops, judges, teachers, senators, and the president of the United States- were suddenly spending as much time defending their conduct as they were exercising their power. University presidents and deans were physically thrown out of their offices. Flags were burned and cops were routinely called ‘pigs.’' This passage from Tom Brokaw’s book, Boom! Voices of the Sixties, illustrates a prominent theme of an important decade. He goes on to say, 'Few institutions escaped some kind of assault or change. The very pillars of the Greatest Generation- family, community, university, corporation, Church, law- were challenged to one degree or another. Nothing was beyond question, and there were far fewer answers than before.' During the 1960’s, Americans began to question and challenge authority in ways they never had before." - Road to Change: Questioning Authority in the 1960s
I Am A Man March, 1965.











Draft Card Burning, 1969.

The first lottery drawing for the Vietnam War was held in the Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington DC on December 1st, 1969. Approximately 850,000 men were affected by this event.

Freedom Trash Can at feminist rally outside Miss America Pageant, 1969.











Diane Arbus, Teenage couple on Hudson Street, 1963.











Diane Arbus, Identical Twins, 1966.











Diane Arbus made the ordinary bizarre:


Diane Arbus, A young Brooklyn family going on a Sunday outing, 1966.











and the unusual natural:


Diane Arbus, A family one evening in a nudist camp, 1965.











Diane Arbus, Child with a Toy Hand Grenade, 1970.











Vietnam War
1955 - 1975
Vietnam 1960s
Young Marine waits on the beach during
Da Nang landing, 3 August 1965.











“In taking this picture, I had destroyed his [the South Vietnamese general’s] life.  For General Loan had become a man condemned both in his country and in America because he had killed an enemy in war.  People do this all the time in war, but rarely is a photographer there to record the act.” - Eddie Adams

Eddie Adams, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing Viet Cong prisoner Nguyen Van Lém, Saigon, 1968.











Nicole Kidman as Diane Arbus in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus










Diane Arbus, Masked Woman in Wheel Chair, 1970.











Watts Riots, August 1965.
Detroit Riot, July 23, 1967.
Six days of unrest, 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $40 million in property damage
Five days of unrest, 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed











Kent State

John Paul Filo, 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneels over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller, who was shot by the Ohio National Guard during the Kent State shootings, 1970.


Kent State student Alan Canfora speaks about the shooting of his friend, Jeffrey Milller










LAPD officers beating Rodney King, March 3, 1991.
Empire Liquors, where 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was killed by liquor store owner who believe she was shoplifting, March 16, 1991.

Six days of unrest, 53 deaths, more than 2,000 injuries, more than 11,000 arrests, over $1 Billion in property damage











Rioter in Ferguson, MO, August, 16, 2014.

More on the civil unrest in Ferguson, MO











Michael Brown with Grandmother