“I Really Believe There Are Things Which Nobody Would See Unless I Photographed Them.”

“I do feel that I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.”

–Diane Arbus, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph

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  • peninith1

    Very provocative! I can’t at all claim to have that kind of original mind or eye–or even imagine seeing things in a ‘nobody else sees this’ way.

    Arbus truly did see the world differently–one wonders if the freakish quality she often captured in subjects was as much there in them as it was a mirror of her way of seeing and feeling. Either way, about herself or others, great photographs!

    While I can’t imagine having that unusual a viewfinder, I do get the joy of trying to make something unusual or beautiful, or to capture a strange, iridescent, or fleeting moment of meaning in words. Re-creating from the elements around me really is one of my greatest sources of happiness.

  • Kathleen Mickelson

    I love Diane Arbus’ work; this is such a wonderful quote. Thank you for sharing this one.

  • Janine @ RusticKitchen

    I once photographed some beautiful orange butterflies on a mound of lovely white flowers. It was only when I had the shot on my computer that I realized it was poison ivy. Good thing I didn’t think to pick those white-flowered, three-leafed vines!

  • Bev

    I so agree with this statement. I went to WV Bridge day once and wrote an essay and poem about something I saw that everyone else missed and so wish I had a photo of it. I have the scene in my minds eye to this day. This particular Bridge Day a couple was to leap from the Bridge after saying their I Do’s but the real love I saw that day was of an elderly couple walking on this brisk cool day. The man had on a brown sweater with large buttons and she bent over to button his sweater to protect him from the chill. It was priceless.

  • Louise

    I sort of agree with this and sort of not. Where we go out to capture a moment and do so mindfully then that is something that is meaningful, but I think a lot of “capturing a moment” is actually fairly mindless. For many, we cannot be somewhere or have some kind of interaction without feeling we need to take a photo on our phone or video it. How many people go to a concert and instead of being in the moment, video the whole thing on their phone and so watch it all via a tiny screen instead of just putting their phone down and enjoy being in the moment and the event for what it is?

    Hugh Laurie made a really interesting comment about this in this broadcast (fast forward to about 28:30 minutes for context and 29:30 minutes for the quote itself).


    He said:

    “I heard the other day that there have been more photographs taken in the
    last twelve months than there have ever been taken, in the world, ever.
    Because people are now photographing – I shudder to think what they are
    photographing – everything and nothing. No interaction is deemed to
    have actually happened unless somebody has a picture of it. Nobody is
    satisfied with having met a person without having a photograph to prove
    it. I think that is odd, and I think it’s so odd that it might actually
    be starting to alter the way we think about each other and the way we
    think about general day-to-day social interaction.”