I had a chance to stop by the Phillips de Pury auction house this weekend to look at the pre-auction viewing of the early Diane Arbus photos that are the subject of Gregory Gibson’s book Hubert’s Freaks. The book is about the legendary Times Square freak show/flea circus whose performers Arbus took portraits of in the early ’60s.
The work isn’t quite at the level of her mature efforts, but there are glimmers of the later work that she’s so famous for. Looking at these early photos, you can feel Arbus beginning to cut out the extraneous and begin to home in on her subjects.
There are some related materials for sale, too, such as contracts spelling out what exactly Hubert’s Museum hired performers will and won’t do — sword swallowing yes, but fire eating, no (it was a violation of the New York City fire code).