Arbus: 40 Years Gone

James Pomerantz, who blogs as ‘A Photo Student‘ marked the 40th anniversary of the suicide of Diane Arbus a couple of days ago by publishing the obituary from the Village Voice at the time, written by A D Coleman, along with a link to 1972 Masters of Photography video in four parts with contributions from her daughter Doon Arbus, Lisette Model, Marvin Israel and John Szarkowski.

A D Coleman is of course still writing about photography, and always worth reading (though perhaps it helps that I usually agree with him.) Our medium hasn’t been blessed with too many who have actually written intelligently about it and he is one of the few who doesn’t seem to be too scared by images to actually look at them rather than hide behind obscuring theory.

I’ve several times mentioned his detailed postings on the still unfinished saga of the attempts to pass off some rather second-rate images of Yosemite as previously unknown work by Ansel Adams. His latest series of articles, I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s In 3D, is about how the image world is rapidly and inevitably moving “toward a 3D digital environment.”

For some years people – including museum curators – have been telling me the future was moving images. It’s a trend that I’ve deliberately resisted, still personally finding much greater satisfaction and a greater plasticity in still photography. With still photography you can work much more on the individual image, and then go on to putting images together in different ways, and it’s always seemed to me to give more scope for the individual artist. Making film (and the first cameras I seriously used when I was a student were TV, video and 8mm film cameras) was always a team effort.

Of course video has its uses, and often gives a clearer view of the story of what is happening at some of the events I cover, but it lacks the focus on significant instants that the still image gives.  The 3D digital environment clearly has its uses, but it takes imaging further away from the kind of personal response that for me is the power of the still image.

3 Responses to “Arbus: 40 Years Gone”

  1. I was surprised to learn that Pomerantz had not asked for permission from A D Coleman to republish his article. Coleman demanded the removal of the article, and posted a comment on Pomrantz’s blog, which was also very quickly removed.

    You can read more about this on Coleman’s blog – the most recent post on the matter is at

  2. rickbL says:

    AC appears to be writing about smaller and smaller changes, missing the big changes. This is what he did 40 years ago.

  3. Perhaps the change to 3D will be a big one?

    But I think the kind of detailed research he did on the ‘Ansel Adams’ story was impressive. Though personally I just looked at the pictures and said “no way!”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.