Doon Arbus, Francine Prose, and Michael Cunningham on Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus, 1970 (c) Steven Frank

How might the verbal atmosphere artists create around their work affect or complicate our understanding of it? Would our perception of Diane Arbus’ photographs change were we to hear what she had to say about them?

This Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 5:00pm, as part of the PEN World Voices Festival (now through May 6, 2012), MoMA is screening A Slide Show and Talk By Diane Arbus. The 40-minute film was compiled by Neil Selkirk, Doon Arbus, and Adam Shott from an original 1970 recording of a slide presentation given one year before the photographer’s death. It has been shown less than a dozen times publicly and offers us the rare opportunity to hear the photographer lecture on her images. Nearly 40 years after publication, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph which features 80 of those images, remains one of our most popular photobooks.

Following the screening, novelist and president of PEN American Center, Francine Prose along with Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Hours, Michael Cunningham, and Doon Arbus discuss how the photographer’s “precise use of language” illuminates her pictures. They will also read from the recently released book, Diane Arbus: A Chronology, which was primarily composed of exerpts from her letters, notebooks, writings, and journals. Through her own words, they explore the nature of her observation.

In the film, according to Yale Daily News, which reviewed a screening at Yale University Art Gallery last month, Arbus said on that topic: “I do it because I think there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”

Untitled (6), 1970-71; from Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (c) Diane Arbus

Saturday, May 5, 2012
5:00–6:30 pm

Film ticket: $12, $10 seniors, $8 students. MoMA members free but a screening ticket is required. Tickets are released one week in advance starting at 9:30 am at MoMA’s main lobby information desk. Please view MoMA’s ticketing policy here.

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