Diane Arbus: Something Was There: Early Work by Diane Arbus

They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you. —Diane Arbus, from a letter to Davis Pratt, Fogg Museum, Cambridge, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs.

Fraenkel Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition Something Was There: Early Work by Diane Arbus, on view from September 6 through October 27, 2007. Comprised of approximately sixty prints, this will be the first solo exhibition of Arbus’s photographs at Fraenkel Gallery since 1992, and will occupy the gallery’s three exhibition spaces.

Something Was There: Early Works by Diane Arbus concentrates on the years beginning with 1956–when Arbus seriously took up a 35mm Nikon for her own aims–through 1962, when she moved to a 2-1/4” square format negative. In these six years, Arbus staked out a vision that was emphatically and entirely her own. Many of her central subjects–people on the streets and in parks, circus performers, couples, female impersonators, muscle men–were established in this period, and Arbus would continue to return to these subjects until her death in 1971.

As the 2003 retrospective organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art made clear, Diane Arbus’s early work was as singular and radical as the eighty photographs in Diane Arbus, the influential 1972 monograph that solidified her reputation. Fifteen photographs from the years 1956–1962 were included in the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark 1972 Arbus retrospective. After that, the photographs were rarely seen or published until the exhibition Diane Arbus Revelations, thirty years later. Though the photographs Arbus left behind span a period of only fifteen years, they are widely acknowledged to have changed the course of photography.