eyes on the U.S.

The Disturbing Photographic Poetry Of Diane Arbus

In Arbus’ first major retrospective in France, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris presents a selection of 200 works of the American artist who quite literally changed the "face" of photography.

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park (1962)
Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park (1962)
Claire Guillot

PARIS -- "The world is full of fictional characters looking for their stories, " Diane Arbus once said. Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967 -- the picture that opens the Jeu de Paume exhibition — immediately confirms its author's opinion. Through her lens, these ordinary girls seem to come straight out of Alice in Wonderland: same clothes, same hairdo, they look eerily alike and even seem to share one arm. No wonder Stanley Kubrick cited them as the influence behind The Shining"s ghostly twins.

These two identical, yet unique beings create discomfort for the viewer: the portrait, far from unraveling the mystery of identity, only strengthens it. "Photography is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know," as Arbus put it.

It was high time France hosted a retrospective of this preeminent artist, who revolutionized the art of portrait in the 1960s, before committing suicide in 1971 at the age of 48. The last major international exhibition, "Revelations' in 2003, was not shown here.

This exhibition, although welcome, does not offer explicit help in the reading of Arbus' work: there is no text to accompany the images, no written summaries to explain the organization of the exhibition. "We wanted to focus on the public's personal reaction to the pictures," said Marta Gilli, director of the Jeu de Paume.

Two rooms at the end of the exhibition offer insights into the artist and her pictures. The 200 photographs presented are indeed glaringly raw. Diane Arbus chose to concentrate on non-politically correct subjects: transvestites, nudists, circus performers, giants, dwarves ... marginal people, light-years away from the environment in which the photographer grew up.

Born into a wealthy family of merchants in New York, Diane Arbus began as a fashion photographer, together with her husband Allan, in the 1940s. The job bored her to death. She only started doing what she wanted to at the age of 38, after she and her husband separated.

At first, her grainy pictures were populated by sad children. Her photography teacher -- Lisette Model, an Austrian immigrant known for uncompromising portraits of the poor and rich alike -- inspired her to address reality head-on. In 1962, Arbus chose to switch from rectangular pictures to square ones, thus leaving no room for context. And she started exploring the subjects that fascinated her: the "freaks," with their uncanny appearance. "Photography was a license to go wherever I wanted to go and do whatever I wanted to do," Arbus said.

Although she is best remembered as the "photographer of freaks," Arbus's talent was also her ability to challenge such labels, to blur the boundaries between what is normal and abnormal, between reality and fiction: the old lady with uncannily perfect hair, the young patriot with a pock-marked face in a pro-war parade, the baby mummified in its sleep. "We all look so incredibly and inevitably strange," Arbus told her students. The "freaks' are shown in their fragility and humanity, like in the picture of a Jewish giant, photographed in his beloved parents' living room in the Bronx in 1970.

Hunting for weakness

Arbus' most beautiful photographs are the most ambiguous ones, where she puts the subjects' identity and gender into question. She shoots a loving couple on a bench, and even though the woman is pregnant, the man is the one who seems effeminate. She takes a picture of a father and his son, the child's clothes make him look older than his father.

In 1963 and 1966, two Guggenheim fellowships allowed Arbus to make her own "comédie humaine": a considerable work on the "rites, manners and customs in the United States' collecting pictures of carnival parades, baby beauty pageants and dog shows. She also began to publish her work in Esquire and Harper's Bazaar magazines.

In 1967, a collective exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art heralded her consecration: her work was shown together with Lee Friedlander's and Garry Winogrand's. This exhibition --a manifesto entitled "New Documents'-- broke with photojournalism, and a broader humanistic vision of the postwar period. Of the three photographers, Arbus was the most noticed... and the most criticized.

For even if her work had since become canonical, the Arbus approach still shocked many. The feminist writer Germaine Greer told of the time she posed for Arbus in 1971, and how violent she found the photographer, leaning over her, only interested in her moments of weakness. Tracking down the flaws of her subjects, the photographer depicted the world as a tragic show, where characters played the parts against their will. It is an artist's vision, both brutal and poetic, which manages to find the strange always lurking just behind the ordinary.

Read the original article in French

Photo – Wikipedia

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport


Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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