Diane Arbus

Hiram Butler Gallery

Is it true that the only track open for critical assessment of Diane Arbus’ photographs is to trace the history of their reception? Before taking up this question, we should mention that the Arbus exhibition was part of Houston’s month-long, international celebration of photography, “FotoFest ’88,” which in total (83 exhibitions) represented a diversity of current camera practices and a variety of historical perspectives with a slight bias in both categories toward “documentary” traditions. Given the widespread familiarity and surprising popularity of Arbus’ photographs, the heavy critical traffic they have attracted since 1967, and the problematic management of the Arbus legend by her estate, why should we choose to deal with this exhibition at all? Predictably, some images still provoke an intense curiosity about the physiopathologic phenomena that she presents: Does that man really have

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