|Notes on OUT OF FOCUS
Mark Arbeit's "Out of Focus" series is a result of his participation in an experimental photography group called "The Cauldron." His chosen subjects were focus and the female nude: "The most elementary photography technique the most studied subject in art," Arbeit says. The earlier images in the portfolio all feature flowers in the foreground -- Arbeit would narrow the depth of field until the flower was in sharp focus and the woman no more than a dreamy blur behind it, mimicking its shape and movement. The resulting images are what Arbeit calls a form of "photographic pointillism": the longer one stares and the further one stands back, the clearer the nude becomes and the easier it is to see beyond the bloom.
As in Man Ray's images that play with the relationship between a woman's body and the contours of a stringed instrument, the animate and inanimate become interchangeable. In the later images in this series, Arbeit discovered he could eliminate the flowers completely and shoot the women, out of focus, alone. Their bodies literally become the flowers: the voluptuous becomes a plant in full bloom, the outstretched neck an elegant branch, the shadowy line of her spine the seam of a leaf. The corporeal becomes ethereal.