Headless woman, Palisades Park, N.J.

Diane Arbus American

Not on view

This photograph belongs to an arresting series of photographs Arbus described as "Horror Show" to her friend and advocate Walker Evans. In a September 1962 letter to Evans, Arbus commented on her photographs of performers who worked between screenings in cheap Times Square theaters, or at Hubert's Museum, a flea circus located in the basement of a 42nd Street penny arcade: "These are nightmares to beguile us while we wait." The photograph serves as a subtle but sophisticated observation of how what in the flesh might seem to be an obvious fake is transformed into an ambiguous mystery when seen by the camera. Thus, Arbus suggests, the camera may be more an agent of illusion than a diviner of truth.

Headless woman, Palisades Park, N.J., Diane Arbus (American, New York 1923–1971 New York), Gelatin silver print

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