PRINT Summer 1978

Love/Hate Relations

THE IRONIC STANCE WHICH HAS characterized much of the best American photography was succinctly defined by Diane Arbus when she said, referring to the grotesque subjects of her portraits, “I hear myself saying, ‘How terrific,’ and there’s this woman making a face. I really mean it’s terrific. I don’t mean I wish I looked like that. I don’t mean I wish my children looked like that. I don’t mean in my private life I want to kiss you. But I mean that’s amazingly, undeniably something.” Horrific subjects like hers are extreme ones, it is true, and the ambivalence she expressed is the necessary, probably inevitable, response to these dwarfs and drag queens, denizens of New York City’s tawdriest social backwaters. Yet the same ambivalence, an attraction and repulsion—a fascination—is to be found in the work of artists who addressed the less-than-horrible. Walker Evans discovered America’s crass

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