The one and only. - Diane Arbus.
This is the 1972 documentary on Diane Arbus, made in the year following her suicide. The film contains a reading of classroom recordings made by one of her students, in which Arbus gives perhaps her most forthright declaration of her understanding of photography, and specifically of portraiture. Of particular interest to me were her thoughts on the kind of ‘scrutiny’ that the camera is able to produce in relation to its (and the photographer’s) subject:
“There’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you, and that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect. I mean, if you scrutinise reality closely enough, if in some way you really, really get to it, it becomes fantastic. (…) Something is ironic in the world, and it has to do with the fact that what you intend never comes out like you intended. What I’m trying to describe is that it’s impossible to get out of your skin into somebody else’s, and that’s what all this is a little bit about: that somebody else’s tragedy is not the same as your own. (…) The process itself has a kind of exactitude, a kind of scrutiny that we’re not normally subject to - I mean, that we don’t subject each other to. We’re nicer to each other than the intervention of the camera is going to make us. It’s a little bit cold, a little bit harsh. Now I don’t meant to say that all photographs have to be mean - sometimes they show something really nicer in fact than what you felt, or oddly different. But, in a way, this scrutiny has to do with not evading facts, not evading what it really looks like." - Diane Arbus, 14th March 1923 - July 26th, 1971.