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New Documents, Revisited (b)

Collectively, Arbus, Friedlander, and Winogrand revised the ways in which photographers used their cameras, which changed the look of the resulting photographs, and that they made the photographer’s participatory role in the photographic event a foregrounded given, which transformed both the behavior of photographers and the way we interpret their work. […]

New Documents, Revisited (a)

This non-political, anti-theoretical posture denies categorically and consistently that such photographs are in any way about their literal subject matter, insisting instead that photographs are entirely about themselves and in no way concerned with either the photographer’s inner life or whatever took place in front of the lens at the moment of exposure. As a stance, it became not just widespread but almost mandatory among practitioners of this genre of photography. […]

PRC Founder’s Talk (2)

I’ve spent some time in recent years pondering the word citizenship. This began when a good friend pressed me to define the public function of criticism more precisely. To my considerable surprise, I heard myself explain, “It’s the activity of responsible citizenship within a given community.” Though I’ve worked as a professional critic for close to thirty years, I hadn’t known I believed that. […]

“Why I’m Saying No To This New Arbus Book” (1995)

[In the fall of 1995 I received a review copy of the new Diane Arbus monograph, Untitled, just published by Aperture. Planning to review it, I sought answers to several legal and structural questions its production and publication raised. Becoming suspicious when I proved unable to get satisfactory answers — indeed, any answers at all […]

Ends and Odds Yet Again

Knowing too much about photography infects everything from watching tall, handsome Keith Carradine play E. J. Bellocq in Louis Malle’s 1978 film “Pretty Baby” (while remembering that Bellocq was a hydrocephalic dwarf) to reading John Berger’s typically eloquent paean to Pentti Sammallahti’s mystical relationship to the dogs in his photographs (while knowing that this Finnish photographer uses sardine oil to attract them into his camera’s field of vision and hold them there). […]