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Thursday, Jan 01, 2004

graph paper

"If the threat of taking boring pix hangs over every photographer of ambition, Diane Arbus was perhaps more conscious of it than any other photographer. Her photographs relentlessly tell us how interesting they are; they dare us to look away from them. If our favorite thing in the world is not to look at pictures of freaks and transvestites and nudists and mentally retarded people, this cuts no ice with Arbus. She forces us to acknowledge that these are no ordinary unpleasant pictures of society's discards. They are photographs only Diane Arbus could have taken. The question of whether they are also great works of photography remains undetermined thirty years after her death. Arbus is not universally beloved the way, say, Walker Evans is. Interestingly (and fittingly), she herself did not love Evans. Of the 1971 Evans retrospective at MOMA she wrote: "First I was totally whammied by it. Like THERE is a photographer, it was so endless and pristine. Then by the third time I saw it I realized how it really bores me. Can't bear most of what he photographs.""