out of the past

Speaking of Diane Arbus, she said "A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." Here is a perfect example - a small old portrait photograph I found at a Flea Market last year, and it's haunted me ever since. What is it about this discarded view of the past that give me such pleasure? I stare at these two women I don't even know and they stare back at me - endlessly.

Garry Winogrand said, " there is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described." Lisette Model said "photography is the art of the split second." And Lee Friedlander said, "The pleasures of good photographs are the pleasures of good photographs, whatever the particulars of their makeup."

But who was it that said, "a picture is worth a thousand words"?


  1. Greets to the webmaster of this wonderful site! Keep up the good work. Thanks.

  2. Argh!!! Could they have picked anyone besides the shicksa godess Nicole Kidman!?! I understand the whole Hollywood thing but still.

    When I was a boy we were lucky to own several Arbus prints. My mother knew her a little but she has never spoken about her. Two photographs were hung on one wall in the living room and one was taped to the refrigerator.

    This was around 1970 my mother, a photographer herself,(She was Josef Breitenbach's protogé) explained that artists should always look for the difference inside the subject. That the Arbus photos showed "the difference" rather than the appearence. That most photographers usually focus on only the appearance. (Check out the Godlis archive to see the "difference" then look in most magazines. I'm not being a kiss ass, he's always looking.)

    When Diane Arbus killed herself my mother went on a bender. Swilling gin and swearing like a sailor. When we went to the show at the Modern it took forever to get in. It was crowded but amazing. I was transfixed. We lived in the East Village and the pictures looked like home. In a way the East Village of the early 1970's was one big Arbus photo.

    When we returned home, my mother packed up her Nikons, her Leica, her Rolliflex, told Time to take her off the free lance list and she hocked her cameras.

    She never took a picture again. Not for my High School Graduation, not of college, my wedding, her grand child, she never held a camera again.

    We talked about this movie after I read Godlis' post. She felt that it would be a waste of time and that no movie can see an artists soul. She felt that she would pay ten bucks to see two hours of photos but not to see Nicole Kidman.

    I feel the same way... But I probably will see the movie. I can't resist a car wreck. I agree with Godliss about what she meant to punk. But like the punk of today the Arbus influence has been watered down and processed and a pale imitation of what it once was. It's hard to see punk today without the cause, the rebellion, the disatisfaction. Just as it is hard to see a Arbus influenced fashion layout in the New York Times. But maybe people will see this movie and be motivated to go back to the root and be inspired to find the difference again.

  3. the whole lower East Side was like one Arbus photo...
    well observed.
    Thanks for posting this.
    I want to say Right On to your mom. It says so much that she got drunk after the pain of her fellow female photographer's death. I can understand why she felt it necessary to hock her cameras... if only she had had someone postpone that drastic action. Just coz Arbus took such drastic action, didn't mean to say she had too. But i understand... There were so few female artists for guidance...
    Arbus, Plath, Virginia Woolf... I relate to their anger and frustration ... the times....
    the difference could be to hang in there and stay true to yourself. RIP diane