In a working life less than a decade Diane Arbus effected a profound reconsideration of photography's intensions. Her work turned away from the central concerns of the preceding generation. She valued psychological above formal precision, private above social realities, the permanent and the prototypical above the ephemeral and the accidental, and courage above subtlety. These intuitions were pursued with acute intelligence and fierce dedication --- the latter almost perfectly concealed by humor, and a precisely calculated measure of self-deprecation.
With rare exceptions, Arbus made photographs only of people. The force of these portraits may be a measure of the degree to which the subject and the photographer agreed to risk trust and acceptance of each other. She was interested in them for what they were most specifically: not representatives of philosophical positions or life styles or physiological types, but unique mysteries.
Her subjects surely perceived this, and revealed themselves without reserve, confident that they were not being used as conscripts to serve an exterior issue. They were also doubtless interested in her. At times it may have been unclear which was the mariner and which the wedding guest. The powerfully individual presences that exist in her pictures transcend the abstractions of role; indeed, the categorical badges that her subjects were often seem disguises, costumes to conceal from the casual viewer a more intimate truth.
from "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski
An Aperture Monograph was originally published in 1972, one year after the artist's death, in conjunction with a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art.
Diane Arbus Revelations affords the first opportunity to explore the origins, scope, and aspirations of what is a wholly original force in photography.
Photography's most original artist presents the celebrities of her time in a remarkable collection of portraits. This work reveals the growth of an artist who saw no artificial boundary between art and the paying job and who succeeded in putting her indelible stamp on the visual imagination.
- Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding.