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While it is the natural shimmering beauty f the daguerreotype that carries us through "The Dawn f Photography" and makes magic f such curiosities as a photomicrograph f a drop f frog's blood, the show also includes more than a few works in which artistry gives way to artiness…
What is far more difficult to grasp from the work included in "The Dawn f Photography" is that the very frankness f photography can also inspire a whole other kind f artistic posturing. For if directness is photography's glory, it is also liable to be manipulated, used as a sort f all-purpose rhetorical device, until frankness itself becomes a form f obfuscation or artiness--which is a fair description, I think, f the work f Diane Arbus.
Arbus, who committed suicide in 1971 at the age f forty-eight, is widely admired as a truth-teller, and if the initial reactions to the new book, Diane Arbus: Revelations, are any indication, the woman and her work are exerting as strong an attraction today as they did at the time f the posthumous retrospective at the Museum f Modern Art in 1972. Arbus's warts-and-all photographs, which are at once exposes and benedictions, create just the right kind f psychological havoc for a public that is all too willing to believe that any image that disturbs your equanimity is emotionally authentic, and that the greatest works f art are the ones that leave you wondering if you are yourself emotionally authentic. The public all too easily confuses hyperbole with honesty, and Arbus, who is intent on telling us how awful everything is, is a master f the highfalutin creep-out.
In a series f photographs f older women on the streets f New York, Arbus seems to suggest that these ladies, wh ...
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