From Library Journal
"The photographs were taken at residences for the mentally retarded between 1966 and 1971, places she kept going back to every few months or so, to picnics, dances, on Halloween," writes Arbus's daughter in the short afterword here. "This is simply information. What is in the pictures lies closer to home." In fact, what is revealed on page after page hits almost too close to home. Best known for her documentary yet wholly empathetic photographs of the human oddities from which polite society averts its gaze, Arbus reached the limits of the medium's possibilities for both truth-telling and identification in this series made in the years and months before her suicide. In those times, anyone choosing the severely handicapped as subject matter would risk accusations of exploitation, but this collection is immune: not simply because the subjects are clearly willing participants, giddily posing for the rare opportunity, but also because the product utterly lacks a voyeuristic dimension. There is no visible attempt to compose an art or to layer the images with the artist's interpretation. These are simply some of the most disturbingly honest photographs ever taken. Essential for all photography collections.?Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In an afterword to this remarkable gathering of her mother's photographs, Doon Arbus insists that the intent of these works "wasn't . . . about who or what she saw, but about the experience of seeing it and the power of her photographs to make that experience visible." Between 1969 and 1971, Diane Arbus focused her lens on residents in homes for the mentally retarded. Her patient eye searches out the individual in an isolated space and time, for instance, a little girl who squeezes a Styrofoam cup in her hands while holding under her arm a shoe box bearing the brand name "Child Life," providing ironic contrast with her face, which looks, somehow, too old. Doon Arbus writes that her mother's photographs remind "us that facts lie at the root of what we're looking at," yet it takes us a moment to realize or even come to terms with those facts. These haunting images, jarring yet magical, arrive from the past to give a lyrical poke at our collective subconscious, to wake us up--and remind us to look. Raul Nino