Met Breuer reveals the unknown Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus saw the streets of New York City as a place full of secrets waiting to be fathomed, says Jeff Rosenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art curator of a show of early work by the photographer that opens today (12 July) at the Met Breuer. The pictures date from between 1956, the year Arbus began numbering her rolls of film, and 1962, when she took up her signature, square-format Rolleiflex camera. About two-thirds of the works have never before been shown or published, including Boy Stepping Off the Curb, N.Y.C. (1957-58), a spontaneous and sympathetic shot of a youngster.

In all of Arbuss work, she looked for the poignancy of a direct personal encounter, Rosenheim says. Even in her earliest studies of pedestrians, her subjects seem magically, if just momentarily, freed from the flux and turmoil of their surroundings. The museum acquired the Diane Arbus Archive in 2007 from Doon and Amy Arbus, the photographers daughters, as a gift and promised gift; it is the source of most of the photographs on show. The Alfred Stieglitz Society is the exhibitions main sponsor.

Diane Arbus, Met Breuer, New York, 12 July-27 November