UNTITLED is the only Diane Arbus book solely devoted to a single project. Namely photographs taken at residences for the mentally retarded in between 1969 and 1971. But had she not committed suicide in July 1971, it is very unlikely these photos would have become a book (she confessed to her mentor Lisette Model she hated them).
Undoubtably not as monumental as her famous APERTURE MONOGRAPHS, it is nonetheless a wonderful insight to where Diane Arbus was trying to go as a portrait photographer in her later years. For in it, she has abandoned some of the rigor and technicality of her more known and earlier work for a more simple, pure lyricism.
Most probably, the lack of self consciousness, the naivety and trust of her models in UNTITLED must have seduced her and helped her achieve this newer style.
And despite the raw and grotesque quality that characterizes most of her work, emphasized even more here by the number of portraits with masks, the photographs of UNTITLED are full of compassion, tenderness and poetry. The result is a strange mix of beautiful, unsettling, bizarre images belonging as much to the documentary as to the fairy tale world.
Diane Arbus had always been attracted to this “fantasy” world of strange people. A world that inspired her and that she loved.
“Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot…. Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”