Diane Arbus's photographs are more about her inner psychological workings than her subjects. She reportedly manipulated the subjects until she found the look she was looking for. The account by Germaine Greer is telling of a deeper and more wide spread approach that she used. She would put her feelings into the images. She would manipulate, intimidate and coerce the subjects until she got what she wanted. Perhaps not in all her photographs, but she clearly used this technique on a large number of her subjects. For a detailed account of her inner workings I would recommend the book Emergency in Slow Motion: The inner life of Diane Arbus by William Schultz
In his book Schultz refers to this particular shoot with Germaine Greer and in her own words we can hear her side of the shoot.
"She set up no lights, just pulled out her Rolleiflex, which was half as big as she was, checked the aperture and the exposure, and tested the flash. Then she asked me to lie on the bed, flat on my back on the shabby counterpane. I did as I was told. Clutching the camera she climbed on to the bed and straddled me, moving up until she was kneeling with a knee on both sides of my chest. She held the Rolleiflex at waist height with the lens right in my face. She bent her head to look through the viewfinder on top of the camera, and waited.
In her viewfinder I must have looked like a guppy or like one of the unfortunate babies into whose faces Arbus used to poke her lens so that their snotty tear-stained features filled her picture frame (eg, A Child Crying, NJ, 1967). I knew that at that distance anybody's face would have more pores than features. I was wearing no make-up and hadn't even had time to wash my face or comb my hair.
Pinned on the bed by her small body with the big camera in my face, I felt my claustrophobia kick in; my heart-rate accelerated and I began to wheeze. I understood that as soon as I exhibited any signs of distress, she would have her picture. She would have got behind the public persona of Life cover-girl Germaine Greer, the "sexy feminist that men like". I concentrated on breathing deeply and slowly, and keeping my face blank. If it was humanly possible I would stop my very pupils from dilating. Immobilised between her knees I denied her, for hour after hour. Arbus waited me out. Nothing would happen for minutes on end, until I sighed, or frowned, and then the flash would pop. After an eternity she climbed off me, put the camera back in her bag and buggered off."
Germaine Greer - The Guardian 8th October 2005 - Read the full article by Germaine Greer here
In portraiture do you think it is ok to put your own agenda into the image of your subjects. If there is a line between manipulating the subject and not, where is it for you?