For the longest time, I wondered if Annie Leibovitz had ever met Diane Arbus when she was still alive. Since they both knew Susan Sontag quite well, I thought maybe they had. I loved the idea of both photographers talking together… The idea of the great Diane Arbus giving tips to a young and ambitious Annie Leibovitz.
A few days ago, I decided I wasn’t going to live in the dark any longer and so I Googled the following words: “Leibovitz, Arbus, ever met?”
Stupid, I know.
Still, I needed to know.
The first result that appeared was this amazing 1998 interview of Annie Leibovitz by Anna B. Bohdziewicz at the Warsaw’s Hotel in Poland.
- Have you ever met Diane Arbus?
- I never met her but I knew people who knew her. I remember coming to New York in the seventies to live there. When I was walking dawn the streets I remember thinking - oh! Diane Arbus had it so easy, there is like Diane’s Arbus picture every single corner in New York! That is a bit simplified with Diane’s Arbus work becauseDiane Arbus really knew people she photographed and became friends with them and went into the cave, sort of speak… She was a very, very important photographer because she was taking pictures of people that we as a society did not want to look at. Not that we didn’t want to look at them, we didn’t even see them.
- She committed suicide. Do you think it was because how deep she went into the subject?
- I think it’s so complicated. It was not just because of one thing. She was always very troubled. One could read all kinds of things into it. Did you read the Patricia Boss book about her?
- I read a quite thick biography of Arbus but I don’t remember the author.
- I did not want to read it but I read it and then I wished I could read more… I think that she probably felt comfortable with people she was photographing maybe more so than with other people. Is the question that she saw these people and got so depressed that she killed herself? No…
- No, no, no…
- She saw those people because she related to them, and she probably really enjoyed them, they were real friends … Anyone who lives in New York knows that this is perfect New York. That’s why when I first moved to New York at every corner I could see Diane Arbus picture. But I would not even see these people unless I looked into Diane’s Arbus pictures. I would mentally not been looking at these people.
- Richard Avedon in his book “The American West” tired to repeat Diane’s Arbus work?
- He wished. He whished… He wanted to be Diane Arbus, very bad… He was criticized because he wanted to be Diane Arbus, but it is perfectly all right. I think he did a great work in the West. He is very, very honest about how and what he did and why he did it. He was totally impressed with Diane Arbus and admired her, embraced her. Her douthers, Amy and Doon, are his best friends right now. How can one not amire his work embracing that brilliance. He could never be Diane Arbus but he could certainly integrate in his work what he saw there in her work. And we all do that, we all do that! That what’s wonderful! There’s nothing wrong with that. We all live in this world and we all feed of each other. That’s part of it. It’s great, it’s great! You know…
Read the rest of the interview here.