"WHY ARE THESE OLD HAGS LAUGHING?"r
Inevitably, a work is always a form of tangible closure. But closures need not close off;
they can be doors opening onto other closures and junaioning as on-going passages to an
elsewhere (-within-here). - Trinh Minh-ha, When the Moon Waxes Red
One of the last photographs Imogen Cunningham made is a portrait of
Irene ("Bobbie") Libarry (fig.
an old woman with sparse white hair,
fifties' bow-shaped glasses, and sagging breasts straining a gauzy, old-fash-
ioned brocaded dress. Leaning against a fringed satin cushion with her
hands clasped in an attitude of resignation, the pictured woman at first
glance might be some body's grandmother, until we notice that she rests
her hands, not on a table but on her broad bare belly-and then see that the
brocade is a tattoo. The other half of Libarry's decorated body is the subject
of another image that draws attention to her painfully misshapen feet (fig.
and to the gnarled hands covering her crotch.
Cunningham, ninety-three herself when she made the Libarry
photographs, was at work on a series she called After Ninety) but she had
long been fascinated by grotesques, among whom she included herself.
Another nude portrait made the same year-Lyle Tuttle, in full body tattoo
(fig.E.3), rests one tense hand in his lap and the other on the upended but-
tocks of a dismembered doll-includes another set of hands, the pho-
tographer's, suspended in mirror image against the black background. The
doll is the same mutilated body Cunningham photographed in
head between its legs - her protest message against the war in Vietnam.
The double portrait was a favorite trick: in a self-portrait made in
E.4), the dark shape of the photographer is superimposed against a plate
glass window, on the other side of which is a display of girdles; she (repre-