Diane Arbus 1923-1971
- Diane Arbus
- 'patriot, with proud button and flag, n. y. c.'
Other prints of this image:
Diane Arbus (Aperture, 1972, in conjunction with retrospective exhibition originating at The Museum of Modern Art, New York), unpaginated
Diane Arbus: Revelations (New York, 2003, in conjunction with the exhibition originating at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), p. 38
Peter Turner, Editor, American Images: Photography 1945-1980 (London: Barbican Art Gallery, 1985), p. 154
The image offered here was made in New York City at the ‘Support Our Men in Vietnam’ pro-war parade on 13 May 1967. Arbus had participated in, or covered, a number of rallies and parades throughout the 1960s, from a New Hampshire-to-Washington, D. C., peace march in 1962, to the ‘Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam’ in April, 1967, in New York City, just a month before present image was taken. A well-known photograph of Arbus by Garry Winogrand shows her at this anti-war rally in Central Park, Rolleiflex in hand, a flower between her teeth (Revelations, p. 189).
By 1967, Arbus had mastered the Rolleiflex’s square-format negative and was using it to tremendous effect, isolating her subjects in the center of the frame, creating full-frontal portraits that are confrontational and vulnerable simultaneously. Patricia Bosworth, in her Diane Arbus: A Biography (New York, 1984), quotes the photographer Bob Adelman, who remembered seeing Diane at
‘”most of the protests against the Vietnam war. But she would never plunge into the crowd like the rest of us who were all going for a sense of immediacy, of grabbing on to the entire vista—we wanted to record the action. But Diane hung back on the fringes—and she’s pick out one face, like the pimply guy with the flag or the man with his hat over his heart”’ (p. 224).
Another photograph taken at the May 1967 event, ‘Boy with a Straw Hat Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade,’ was chosen by Arbus for her Box of Ten portfolio, and was reproduced on the cover of ArtForum magazine in May 1971. At the time these images were made, protests against the Vietnam War were escalating, with the Democratic convention in Chicago only a year away. Her photographs of two different young men at a pro-war parade, however, are less about their united cause and more about the men themselves. In Arbus’s photographs, they are worlds part, and ultimately apolitical. In regard to the ‘Boy with Straw Hat,’ John Szarkowski observed, ‘The powerful individual presences that exist in her pictures transcend the abstractions of role: indeed, the categorical badges that her subjects wear often seem disguises, costumes to conceal from the casual viewer a more intimate truth’ (Looking at Photographs, p. 206).
As of this writing, it is believed that only two other prints of this image, signed and titled by the photographer, have appeared at auction: one in 1978, titled by Arbus ‘Patriotic Young Man with a Flag’ (Martin Gordon, 5 September 1977, Lot 1143), and one in 1998, titled by Arbus ‘Boy in a Pro-War Parade with Button and Flag’ (Sotheby’s New York, 7 October 1998, Sale 7194, Lot 448).