Diane Arbus: Couples

Twenty-one photographs of “Couples” by Diane Arbus will be on view at Fraenkel Gallery, 55 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, from December 2 through January 9, 1988.

Throughout the nearly one dozen years of her mature work, “the couple” was a theme of ongoing interest for Arbus. Early on, the photographer recognized that when a photographic frame is placed around two individuals, a certain relationship is immediately created. The current exhibition will include two photographs dating as early as 1962: “The Junior Interstate Ballroom Dance Champions, Yonkers,” and “Man and boy on a bench in Central Park.” Though these are two very different pairs, they serve to illuminate the range of Arbus’s interest in this theme.

The subject of relationships preoccupied Arbus into her final years, as can be seen in the three “Untitled” photographs made in a home for Down Syndrome patients in Vineland, New Jersey. The exhibition will include several images that have not been published or exhibited heretofore.

Diane Arbus was a singular and explosive force in photography, reshaping both the ways pictures are made and our response to them. John Szarkowski, Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York has written:

“Arbus knew that honesty is not a gift, endowed by a native naiveté, nor a matter of style, or politics, or philosophy. She knew rather that it is a reward bestowed for bravery in the face of the truth. … Arbus did not avert her eyes. She stuck with her subject exploring their secrets (and thus her own) more and more deeply. She was surely aware of the danger of this path, but she believed that her bravery would be equal to the demands she made of it.”