Judith Thurman writes of Arbus, "Her heritage was, in fact, that of most artistic children of privilege, who feel that their true selves are invisible, while resenting the dutiful, false selves for which they are loved: a dilemma that inspires the quest, in whatever medium, for a reflection.".... She was luminous, with large green eyes, a delicate, exotic face and a slim body. And she was, writes Thurman, "nubile" (almost every published photo of her has a sexual charge to it). All kinds of people were captivated by her, and she was captivated by all kinds of people.... By the early '60s, her commercial portraits, for magazines such as Esquire and Harper's Bazaar , began to assume a distinctive look. Though taken of mainly traditional subjects—actors, writers, activists—they were strange and obscurely troubling. She would spend hours with her subjects, following them to their homes or offices, talking and listening to them, trying to soften them up to the point where they began to drop their public façade.—Daniel Oppenheimer, Jewish Virtual Library
|"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know."|
Interest in Arbus continues unabated: witness the 2011 psychobiography An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus. To go to the source and form your own opinions, you can view a slideshow of her most famous images here. For further reading/viewing we have Hubert's Freaks: The Rare Book Dealer, the Times Square Talker, and the Lost Photos of Diane Arbus and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus.
Shall we let her have the last word?
Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe. There's a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats.[more photos after the jump]