Imogen Cunningham [tattoo]

by M. Mileva

Imogen Cunningham ‘On the Body

Text by Richard Lorenz

“Her interest in photographically documenting the lives of nonagerians, her own as well as others, carried her wanning energies to the end of her life. Just months before she died, she died, she found in a convalescent home one of her last great models – an ailing former carnival “tattoed lady” named Bobbie Libarry. Cunningham’s probing yet compassionate examination of every fragment of Libarry’s figure reveals a body physically used and spent, its lacelike tattoo adorments distorted by her sagging and wrinkling skin – a body once used like an artist’s palette that has become a self-created form of real body art. Filed away in her notes and found after her death, quotation Cunningham had scribbled on a torn piece of card could only apply to this inevitable weakening of all human bodies:

For it is in this inadequate flesh that each of us must serve his dream, and so, must fail in the dream’s service, and must parody that which he holds dearest. To this we seem condemned, being what we are. Thus, one and all, we play false to the dream, and it evades us, and we dwindle into responsible citizens.

It is only by preserving faith in human dreams that we may, after all, perhaps someday make them come true—

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