Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/09/03

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Subject: Re: [Leica] New photos/Arbus
From: Johnny Deadman <>
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 14:16:42 -0400

No, I said that if you want to criticize it you have to do better than 
"It stinks" or "bullshit" or "she's a no-talent loser" or any of that 
kind of thing.

I never said I think Arbus' work is terrific. I think it is much better 
and deeper than some of those who commented here. It is certainly much 
more interesting than a good 90-99% of work ever posted on the LUG, and 
I include my own.

Arbus did not hold people up to ridicule. That is your construction of 
what she did and why I say that you cannot have delved very deeply into 
her attitudes or her methods. Sometimes a little context is very 

I do not demand of a picture that it looks nice or that it portrays 
people in a flattering light. Some photos have that intent. Others do 
not. The fact that you think that Arbus' photographs 'ridicule' people 
tells me that you find the people in Arbus' photographs ridiculous. I 
don't, at all, and I like the discomfort which she causes when I look 
at her pictures. I really do recommend you dig out Mikhailov and have a 
good long look at it, and read what he says about the pictures, before 
you get too satisfied with your own critical responses.

On Wednesday, September 3, 2003, at 01:52 PM, bdcolen wrote:

> I find it more than a little surprising Johnny, that you would, in
> effect, say that one has to appreciate anyone's work not to be guilty 
> of
> banal superficiality and sniffing ones armpits. I hardly demand
> Rembrandt lighting and gooey warm feelings of photographs. You think
> Arbus's work is terrific; great. Many people agree with you. I find it
> offensive because I think she took advantage of people and held them up
> to ridicule. Actually, if that makes me a banal, superficial autoarmpit
> sniffer, I'll gladly accept the title. ;-)
- --
John Brownlow

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