House on a Hill

August 18, 2008

House on a Hill, Rome

There’s something about this photo that reminds me of Arbus’s similarly titled photo – A House on a Hill, Hollywood. It’s one of my two favorite photos of hers (the other being the Disneyland castle), and the dialogue generally surrounding these photos is how atypical it is for her to have taken more of a landscape photograph, as she normally works in portraiture. Thus, there’s a lot of discussion on what this means – photographing a house on a hill, photographing a castle at a theme park. Most often, the thought is she is photographing what is not there – i.e. the content of the house is missing in Hollywood; it’s just a shell (read what you will into that). Things aren’t always what they seem.

A House on a Hill, Hollywood, by Diane Arbus

The mood of the two photos feel the same to me. Somewhat gray (though in Arbus’s work this is achieved via B&W), clouds in the sky, perspective, and what’s not there. It’s obvious in Rome what is left is a piece of magnificent architecture, and what’s left hints at what once was, but is no longer. Whether that be as simple as part of the house is missing, or a great society that has come and gone… well, I’ll leave that to you to read into.

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