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Diane Arbus Quotes

Diane Arbus (1923-1971)


Diane Arbus was a photographer and also taught at Parsons School of Design, Rhode Island School of Design, and Cooper Union. After early workin fashion photography, Diane Arbus became known more for her portraits of unusual subjects and for her portraits of celebrities.

Selected Diane Arbus Quotations

• I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.

• If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, "I want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life." I mean people are going to say, "You're crazy." Plus they're going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that's a reasonable kind of attention to be paid.

• There are always two things that happen. One is recognition and the other is that it's totally peculiar. But there's some sense in which I always identify with them.

• The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.

• The thing that's important to know is that you never know. You're always sort of feeling your way.

• I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do -- that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse.

• I never have taken a picture I've intended. They're always better or worse.

• It's important to take bad pictures. It's the bad ones that have to do with what you've never done before. They can make you recognize something you hadn't seen in a way that will make you recognize it when you see it again.

• A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.

• There are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.

• Everybody has that thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that's what people observe. You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.

• I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself.

• One thing I would never photograph is a dog lying in the mud.

• My favorite thing is to go where I've never been.

• Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe.

• Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats.

• Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.

• It gets to seem as if way back in the Garden of Eden after the Fall, Adam and Eve had begged the Lord to forgive them and He, in his boundless exasperation, had said, ''All right, then. Stay. Stay in the Garden. Get civilized. Procreate. Muck it up.'' And they did.

• Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding.

• Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.

Photographer Richard Avedon, about Diane Arbus: Nothing about her life, her photographs, or her death was accidental or ordinary.

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2009. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Diane Arbus Quotes." About Women's History. URL: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/quotes/a/diane_arbus.htm . Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)

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