by Diane Arbus
There are an awful lot of people in the world and it's going to be terribly hard to photograph all of them... It was my teacher Lisette Model who finally made it clear to me that the more specific you are, the more general it will be.
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.
Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.
Lately I've been struck with how I really love what you can't see in a photograph.
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.
...invention is mostly this subtle, inevitable thing...I mean it comes from your nature, your identity. We've all got an identity. You can't avoid it. It's what's left when you take everything else away. I think the most beautiful inventions are the ones you don't think of
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.
I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.
When you grow up your mother says, 'Wear rubbers or you'll catch cold.' When you become an adult you discover that you have the right not to wear rubbers and to see if you catch cold or not. It's something like that.
Nothing is ever the same as they said it was.
What moves me about...what's called technique...is that it comes from some mysterious deep place. I mean it can have something to do with the paper and the developer and all that stuff, but it comes mostly from some very deep choices somebody has made that take a long time and keep haunting them.
Some pictures are tentative forays without your even knowing it. They become methods. 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.
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.
The thing that's important to know is that you never know. You're always sort of feeling your way.
I never have taken a picture I've intended. They're always better or worse.
These are characters in a fairy tale for grown-ups. Wouldn't it be lovely? Yes.
I used to have this notion when I was a kid that the minute you said anything, it was no longer true. Of course it would have driven me crazy very rapidly if I hadn't dropped it, but there's something similar in what I'm trying to say. That once it's been done, you want to go someplace else. There's just some sense of straining.
I’m very little drawn to photographing people that are known or even subjects that are known. They fascinate me when I’ve barely heard of them.
I’ve got incredible power in my closet. Not power to do harm--just the feeling that I’ve captured people who have since died and people who will never look that way again. The camera is cruel, so I try to be as good as I can to make things even.
I don't know what good composition is.... Sometimes for me composition has to do with a certain brightness or a certain coming to restness and other times it has to do with funny mistakes. There's a kind of rightness and wrongness and sometimes I like rightness and sometimes I like wrongness.
For me the subject of a picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated.
One thing that struck me very early is that you don’t put into a photograph what’s going to come out. Or, vice versa, what comes out is not what you put in.
Choosing a project can be ironic. Everybody’s got irony. You can’t avoid it. It’s in the structure, the detail, the significance...What I mean is, I would never choose a subject for what it means to me. I choose a subject and then what I feel about it, what it means, begins to unfold.
I remember a long time ago when I first began to photograph I thought, there are an awful lot of people in the world and it’s going to be terribly hard to photograph all of them, so if I photograph some kind of generalized human being, everybody’ll recognize it. It’ll be like what they used to call the common man or something. It was my teacher, Lisette Model, who finally made it clear to me that the more specific you are, the more general it’ll be.
Lately I’ve been struck with how I really love what you can’t see in a photograph. An actual physical darkness. And it’s very thrilling for me to see darkness again.
Recently I did a picture—I’ve had this experience before--and I made rough prints of a number of them. There was something wrong in all of them. I felt I’d sort of missed it and I figured I’d go back. But there was one that was just totally peculiar. It was a terrible dodo of a picture. It looks to me a little as if the lady’s husband took it. It’s terribly head-on and sort of ugly and there’s something terrific about it. I’ve gotten to like it better and better and now I’m secretly sort of nutty about it.
One thing I would never photograph is a dog lying in the mud.
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.
Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.
There's a kind of power thing about the camera. I mean everyone knows you've got some edge. You're carrying some magic which does something to them. It fixes them in a way.
Photography is "real" because the camera is "recalcitrant". It's determined to do one thing and you may want to do something else.
For me the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated. I do have a feel for the print but I don't have a holy feeling for it.
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.
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.
It's always seemed to me that photography tends to deal with facts whereas film tends to deal with fiction.
A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.