American photographer Diane Arbus took many noteworthy photographs of unusual people throughout her career, but perhaps her photograph of an awkward-looking child clutching a toy hand grenade remains her best-known work. Find out more about this notable photograph in this installment of Influential Photographs.
While afraid that she would only be known as the “photographer of freaks,” it didn’t stop Diane Arbus from taking photographs of the so-called “deviants” and “marginalized” when she quit commercial photography and ventured into independent photography in the late 1950s. Taking her Rolleiflex camera into the streets and unconventional locations, the shy and reserved American photographer snapped strangers she met along the way. They were not your usual strangers, however; they were nudists, prostitutes, transvestites, circus performers, dwarfs, giants, eccentrics, and weird-looking people, subjects deemed bizarre during her time.
Then, there’s her 1962 photograph above of a young boy named Colin Wood (son of tennis player Sidney Wood), whom she spotted in the New York City Central Park. Said to be “caught in a moment of exasperation,” her photo shows the boy having a “maniacal” expression as he clutched a toy hand grenade in one hand while the other had a claw-like gesture. Arbus said she moved around trying to find the best angle as the boy stood, to which the boy reacted with impatience and annoyance. “Take the picture already!” Wood reportedly told Arbus.
Wood was aged 14 when he became notorious for the photograph, seven years after Arbus snapped his 7-year-old scrawny, weird-looking self. A classmate found the photo in Aperture Magazine and photocopied it, then pasted it around their campus. At first, he was angry and thought that Arbus “made fun of a skinny kid with a sailor suit,” but he later came to like the photo and found it a good conversation starter.
While he can’t fully recall that afternoon with Arbus and didn’t see her again ever, Wood has had a lot of time to think about that fateful encounter. “There’s a sadness in her that she also saw in me,” he told San Francisco Chronicle in an interview.
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All information for this article were sourced from Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park on Wikipedia, Iconic Photos on Wordpress and San Francisco Chronicle
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.