We are asked to read and reflect on the chapter on Diane Arbus in Singular Images: Essays on Remarkable Photographs by Sophie Howarth.
In the chapter, Liz Jobey presents a comprehensive analysis of the Diane Arbus photo A Young Brooklyn Family Going for a Sunday Outing, N.Y.C. 1966 along with a great deal of background material from interviews with Diane Arbus and from her writings.
The article is long and delves into quite a lot of detail about Arbus’s life as background for making hypotheses about why she did what she did. The tone is unforgiving and quite harsh with the overall implication somewhat along the lines of Sontag – that Arbus was after something sensationalistic. [Interestingly, the name “Arbus” appears 44 times in Sontag’s book On Photography, suggesting that Sontag had a special degree of dislike for Arbus.]
At the end of the article, I felt I had learned more about Jobey’s own world view than I did about the motivations of Diane Arbus and of the family who posed for her. As an example of deconstruction, it is probably exemplary, but after pulling everything apart, it seems to me that Jobey has trouble reassembling the pieces in a way that doesn’t seem like an extended complaint.