Human Interest
Audio Guide Playlist

Listen to commentary by artists and scholars on selected works in Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, including Thelma Golden, K8 Hardy, Byron Kim, Deana Lawson, and Joan Semmel.

Elisabeth Sussman: What is wonderful about this picture is how extremely close up this look at this woman is. How in a way she, with her turban and her furs and her careful makeup seems to dwarf the skyscrapers that you see behind her. She's almost Promethean in relation to these skyscrapers.

Narrator: The photograph is also remarkable for the quality of the printing. Curator Elisabeth Sussman.

Elisabeth Sussman: Arbus was a very concerned and involved black-and-white printer. She almost never worked in color.

An assistant worked with Arbus to get the kind of prints that she wanted. She was extremely sensitive to the grayscale going into the black scale.

That's a wonderful feature of this photograph where the fur and the light of the background and the stone of the skyscraper is just really in wonderful textural contrast. She had real control over the print quality. The other thing you see in this work, which is typical of her, are the borders, the exposed borders. You see them, black lines on the top and the bottom.

Before Arbus, she became famous for this, people would crop off those borders, but she left hers on. They are part of the process of making a picture so she's giving you, yes, a very up close and interesting reality bite here, but she's always letting you know that you are looking at a photograph by the inclusion of those borders.

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