Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Looking at Difference

Laura Swanson’s Anti-Self-Portraits, Diane Arbus’s Portraits, and the Viewer’s Gaze

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2015), 9, (3), 277–294.

Abstract

The article argues that disability is a resource for revitalizing the practice of portraiture. Drawing on Tobin Siebers’s work on disability aesthetics and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s work on staring, the article explores how disability inflects and redefines the conventions of portraiture and how contemporary portraiture revises the photographic history of disability, a history rooted in the medicalization or enfreakment of bodily difference. After briefly surveying the history of photographic representations of variant bodies, consideration is given to the work of Diane Arbus, whose portraits continue to shape the representation of disability, and then to the work of contemporary photographer Laura Swanson, who positions her work in relation to that of Arbus. Swanson reimagines the portrait by resisting the viewer’s gaze and confronting viewers with their expectations of portraiture, their histories of looking, and their encounters with disability and difference.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Adams, Rachel. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 2001. Print. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination Google Scholar

Arbus, Diane. Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph. Millerton: Aperture, 1972. Print. Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Print. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography Google Scholar

Beckman, Rachel. “The Lens Stares Back.” The Washington Post. 3 Jul. 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. “The Lens Stares Back.” The Washington Post Google Scholar

Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Print. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit Google Scholar

Bogdan, Robert, with Martin Elks and James A. Knoll. Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 2012. Print. Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric Google Scholar

Connolly, Kevin Michael. The Rolling Exhibition. 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. The Rolling Exhibition Google Scholar

Fries, Kenny, ed. Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. New York: Plume, 1997. Print. Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Literature and Culture. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Literature and Culture Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Picturing People with Disabilities: Classical Portraiture as Reconstructive Narrative.” Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum. Ed. Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. New York: Routledge, 2010. 23–40. Print. “Picturing People with Disabilities: Classical Portraiture as Reconstructive Narrative.” Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum 23 40 Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Staring: How We Look. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Staring: How We Look Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Ed. Sharon L. Snyder, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2002. Print. “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities Google Scholar

Hevey, David. The Creatures Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery. London: Routledge, 1992. Print. The Creatures Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery Google Scholar

Knoll, James A. “Art for Art’s Sake: People with Disabilities in Art Photography.” Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric. Ed. Robert Bogdan, Martin Elks, and James Knoll. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2012. 129–43. Print. “Art for Art’s Sake: People with Disabilities in Art Photography.” Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric 129 43 Google Scholar

Lee, Anthony W., and John Pultz. Diane Arbus: Family Albums. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003. Print. Diane Arbus: Family Albums Google Scholar

Longmore, Paul. “‘Heaven’s Special Child’: The Making of Poster Children.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print. “‘Heaven’s Special Child’: The Making of Poster Children.” The Disability Studies Reader Google Scholar

Meier, Allison. “Repatriation through Portraiture: Giving Narrative to Disability.” Hyperallergic. 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. “Repatriation through Portraiture: Giving Narrative to Disability.” Hyperallergic Google Scholar

Millett-Gallant, Ann. The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2000. Print. The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art Google Scholar

Mitchell, W.J.T. What Do Pictures Want? Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. Print. What Do Pictures Want? Google Scholar

Morris-Cafiero, Haley. Haley Morris-Cafiero Photography. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. Haley Morris-Cafiero Photography Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Aesthetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2010. Print. Disability Aesthetics Google Scholar

Sikorski, Ray. “A Legless Artist Documents the World in 32,000 Stares.” The Christian Science Monitor. 22 Jan. 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. “A Legless Artist Documents the World in 32,000 Stares.” The Christian Science Monitor Google Scholar

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1973. Print. On Photography Google Scholar

Swanson, Laura. Anti-Self-Portraits. 2005–2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. Anti-Self-Portraits Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

Swanson, Laura. Interview with Kristin Lindgren. “Mellon Creative Residency Q&A.” 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. “Mellon Creative Residency Q&A.” Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

West, Shearer. Portraiture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print. Portraiture Google Scholar

Adams, Rachel. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 2001. Print. Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination Google Scholar

Arbus, Diane. Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph. Millerton: Aperture, 1972. Print. Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph Google Scholar

Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. Print. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography Google Scholar

Beckman, Rachel. “The Lens Stares Back.” The Washington Post. 3 Jul. 2008. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. “The Lens Stares Back.” The Washington Post Google Scholar

Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1988. Print. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit Google Scholar

Bogdan, Robert, with Martin Elks and James A. Knoll. Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 2012. Print. Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric Google Scholar

Connolly, Kevin Michael. The Rolling Exhibition. 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. The Rolling Exhibition Google Scholar

Fries, Kenny, ed. Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out. New York: Plume, 1997. Print. Staring Back: The Disability Experience from the Inside Out Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Literature and Culture. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Literature and Culture Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “Picturing People with Disabilities: Classical Portraiture as Reconstructive Narrative.” Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum. Ed. Richard Sandell, Jocelyn Dodd, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. New York: Routledge, 2010. 23–40. Print. “Picturing People with Disabilities: Classical Portraiture as Reconstructive Narrative.” Re-Presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum 23 40 Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Staring: How We Look. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. Print. Staring: How We Look Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities. Ed. Sharon L. Snyder, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2002. Print. “The Politics of Staring: Visual Rhetorics of Disability in Popular Photography.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities Google Scholar

Hevey, David. The Creatures Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery. London: Routledge, 1992. Print. The Creatures Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery Google Scholar

Knoll, James A. “Art for Art’s Sake: People with Disabilities in Art Photography.” Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric. Ed. Robert Bogdan, Martin Elks, and James Knoll. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2012. 129–43. Print. “Art for Art’s Sake: People with Disabilities in Art Photography.” Picturing Disability: Beggar, Freak, Citizen, and Other Photographic Rhetoric 129 43 Google Scholar

Lee, Anthony W., and John Pultz. Diane Arbus: Family Albums. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003. Print. Diane Arbus: Family Albums Google Scholar

Longmore, Paul. “‘Heaven’s Special Child’: The Making of Poster Children.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print. “‘Heaven’s Special Child’: The Making of Poster Children.” The Disability Studies Reader Google Scholar

Meier, Allison. “Repatriation through Portraiture: Giving Narrative to Disability.” Hyperallergic. 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. “Repatriation through Portraiture: Giving Narrative to Disability.” Hyperallergic Google Scholar

Millett-Gallant, Ann. The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2000. Print. The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art Google Scholar

Mitchell, W.J.T. What Do Pictures Want? Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. Print. What Do Pictures Want? Google Scholar

Morris-Cafiero, Haley. Haley Morris-Cafiero Photography. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2014. Haley Morris-Cafiero Photography Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Aesthetics. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2010. Print. Disability Aesthetics Google Scholar

Sikorski, Ray. “A Legless Artist Documents the World in 32,000 Stares.” The Christian Science Monitor. 22 Jan. 2008. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. “A Legless Artist Documents the World in 32,000 Stares.” The Christian Science Monitor Google Scholar

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1973. Print. On Photography Google Scholar

Swanson, Laura. Anti-Self-Portraits. 2005–2008. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. Anti-Self-Portraits Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

Swanson, Laura. Interview with Kristin Lindgren. “Mellon Creative Residency Q&A.” 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2014. “Mellon Creative Residency Q&A.” Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

West, Shearer. Portraiture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print. Portraiture Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Lindgren, Kristin