One of America’s best-known photographer’s lesser-known works are on display as SFMOMA presents Diane Arbus: In the Beginning through the end of April. The works represent the first half of her already brief career of 15 years, taken in and around New York with a 35 millimeter camera, instead of the twin lens reflex camera that is held in front of the body instead of the eye. Jeff Rosenheim, the curator of the exhibit from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art says her style and talent were on display from the very beginning.
There’s more about the exhibit at the SFMOMA website.
Rosenheim says the choice of camera makes a convenient midway point for describing her career, but these early works are in no way immature. “Arbus had spent 10 years loosely in the fashion genre, working with her husband, from around the end of WWII until 1956. But in 1956, she numbered a roll of film ‘number one,’ and that’s where we begin this exhibition… The salient characteristics, intimacy, centeredness, eye-to-eye relationship, begins at the beginning and is carried through.” The exhibit includes some of the subjects from society’s fringes that Arbus came to be associated with, but also just people caught being themselves on the streets of New York, and at Coney Island. But Rosenheim says she wasn’t satisfied just being an observer. “I used to think that she chose her subjects. And now I believe, as often as she chose them, they chose her. She waited until people returned her gaze. Arbus wanted a direct, one-on-one centered relationship with her subject. So that is both psychological strategy and picture style coming together in one.”