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Matinee: 'Masters of Photography: Diane Arbus' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

5 October 2013

As we said last week, Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the second in our series of Saturday matinees today: a half-hour documentary featuring the work of Diane Arbus.

The half-hour color movie dates from 1972, just a year after her death. In addition to her own thoughts on the art of photography, it begins with a few thoughts by her daughter Doon and includes the reflections of her mentor Lisette Model, colleague Marvin Israel and curator John Szarkowski as the screen pans and zooms over her photos.

The quality of the reproductions in the movie is not great. But that has the interesting effect of emphasizing just what her work was about. She wasn't a gear head, instead fumbling with everything on a stubborn camera to get it to work again, as she put it. And she wasn't obsessed with technique, although she had a feel for the print, she said.

A photograph is always of something, she observed, and that something is always greater than the photograph. Her work doesn't flatter her subjects, as a portrait photographer might, but looks them squarely in the eye. That takes a little courage. For both the subject and the photographer.

To see more of her work (including better versions of the images shown in the movie), see The Photography of Diane Arbus.

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