Composing Dwarfism: Reframing Short Stature in Contemporary Photography

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Amanda Cachia


art history, Ricardo Gil, Laura Swanson


This paper will explore the work of two contemporary dwarf photographers, Ricardo Gil and Laura Swanson, who use different conceptual and technical methods to re-frame the figure of the dwarf subject. The dwarf has often been a marginalized subject in the history of photography, so I am interested in exploring how the strategies that Gil and Swanson employ might resist reductive meanings, and offer alternative readings to the dwarf beyond the oppositional gaze. The articulation of these methods will be prefaced by a focused discussion of dwarf depictions in the history of photography based on the intentions of the photographer, so that the work of several photographers might be powerfully juxtaposed with the radical counter-strategies that Gil and Swanson utilize. 

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Image Credits

Figure 1: George Dureau, Short Sonny, ca. 1970, photograph courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery

Figure 2: George Dureau, Ricardo Gil, ca. 1970, photograph courtesy of Arthur Roger Gallery

Figure 3: Ricardo Gil and George Dureau, 2012, photograph courtesy of Jason Kruppa

Figure 4: Arthur Fellig (Weegee), Drinking In Style, 1943: Shorty, the “Bowery Cherub”

celebrates New Year's Eve at Sammy's Bar, in the Bowery district of New York.

© Weegee (Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography /Getty Images

Figure 5: Mary Ellen Mark, Twin Brothers Tulsi and Basant (Great Famous Circus, Calcutta, India), 1989, photograph courtesy of the artist

Figure 6: Bruce Davidson, The Dwarf, 1958, photograph courtesy of Magnum Photos, New York

Figure 7: Ricardo Gil, Walking Man and Mannequins, c. 1996, photograph courtesy the artist

Figures 8 & 9: David’s Kitchen, 1997, and Ricardo Gil, Charles, Eric and Meg, 1999, photographs courtesy of the artist

Figures 10 & 11: Garry Winogrand, New York, ca. 1968 and American Legion Convention, Dallas, Texas, 1964

© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, photographs courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Figures 12 & 13: Kevin Michael Connolly, Girl; London, England, 2007, and Man; Reykjavik, Iceland, 2007, photographs courtesy of the artist

Figures 14 – 17: Laura Swanson, Anti-Self Portraits, 2005-2008, photographs courtesy the artist

Figure 18: Joel-Peter Witkin, Dwarf From Naples, Rome, 2006 © Joel-Peter Witkin / photograph courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago




Abstract 977 | Word Downloads 125 PDF Downloads 190 Text Downloads 145 Figure 1: Short Sonny Downloads 0 Figure 2: Ricardo Gil Downloads 0 Figure 3: Ricardo Gil and George Dureau Downloads 0 Figure 4: Drinking In Style Downloads 0 Figure 5: Twin Brothers Tulsi and Basant Downloads 0 Figure 6: The Dwarf Downloads 0 Figure 7: Walking Man and Mannequins Downloads 0 Figure 8: David’s Kitchen Downloads 0 Figure 9: Ricardo Gil, Charles, Eric and Meg Downloads 0 Figure 12: Girl; London, England Downloads 0 Figure 13: Man; Reykjavik, Iceland Downloads 0 Figure 18: Dwarf From Naples, Rome Downloads 0 Figure 11: American Legion Convention, Dallas, Texas Downloads 0 Figure 10: New York Downloads 0 Figure 14: Anti-Self Portraits Downloads 0 Figure 15: Anti-Self Portraits Downloads 0 Figure 16: Anti-Self Portraits Downloads 0 Figure 17: Anti-Self Portraits Downloads 0


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