Donigan Cumming

PDF-file by Hugh Adams

Donigan Cumming PDF ebook download Opposing reactions and interpretations have cut a singular path for Cumming's controversial work. Not only is it contested for what it depicts, there is no consensus as to the nature of the photographs or even the intentions of the photographer. Who are these dispossessed people, damaged and broken both physically and emotionally; alcoholics and drug addicts, delusional and impoverished? Are they mere subjects, recorded by Cumming in the midst of their lives, or do they actually participate in the process and help orchestrate the results? Are the settings "real" or are they tableaux? Is Cumming a witness or is he a director? When he repeatedly returns to the same people and the same rooming-house culture, is he driven by the desire to record the social injustices that are obvious in their lives or is it a macabre Theatre of Cruelty meant to shock and entertain?

In his passionate essay Adams shows that in fact Cumming does neither - or rather both. Calling the work "docutheatre", the essayist details how the artist avoids the usual conduits through which a bourgeois audience experiences things which outrage it. Just as he expertly deconstructs the allegories and symbolism that do indeed pervade the work, Adams reveals the secret to their power: the respect the photographer has for the individuals with whom he works. Eschewing both sentimentality and voyeurism, Cumming is making a plea for what Tennessee Williams called "the delicate people". He is giving us reality but reality on speed, hyped-up and more intense. In this way the souls of his subjects are not put on display and our own response is far from teary-eyed. Cumming, says Adams, has "gimlet eyes" and keeps his tears well in check.

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