Jacob Charles Wilson

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Diane Arbus: In The Beginning

for Port Magazine
One of Arbus' most famous photographs, 'a Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx N.Y. 1970'

In the beginning at the Hayward Gallery introduces the formerly neglected 35mm work, made during the first seven years of Arbus' photographic life, when she stalked the streets of New York, from Times Square to Coney Island. Diane Arbus' peering lens is relentless, it goes everywhere you're not supposed to. It wants to get inside people and watch them live their lives. Many, including her own daughter, would like to separate her nostalgic street scenes from her lurid fascination with limit experiences: nudity, deformity, death. But this isn't possible, the palatable can only be understood against the obscene.

We will never totally understand her motivation, each attempt becomes introspection. We project our own fears onto these photographs, these sheets of paper, and read them back so that the reactions to her work reveal more than the work itself. Perhaps the biggest fear is that we might be the stranger who causes others to stare.