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A secret about a secret

11 February 2011

Child with Toy Hand Grenade by Diane Arbus

I read Natasha Lester’s What Is Left Over, After last week and LOVED it!  To give it its proper accolades, I’d like to spend the next three posts on this book.

Today’s post is about a quote I found in the book, attributed to photographer Diane Arbus:

A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.

This says so much to me about not only photographs, but what Natasha feels about life. I think she can see that while we try to be so open about our lives, our wants, our thoughts, there is always more underneath that we cannot understand, even about ourselves. Life is complex, and especially now it seems that the whole world is wide open to us on the surface–with the media and the internet to connect us to whoever and whatever we want, everything feels accessible to us. But underneath are life’s intricacies, and these are much harder to grasp. So a photograph shows us that life is clear on the surface, and we think we understand it, but there is a whole hidden world underneath.

(Natasha, if you are reading this and I’m wrong, please say so! I’ve always despised how in English classes my teachers tried to tell us what the author thought and why she wrote what she did, and here I go doing something similar. I suppose I should say that instead of this quote telling me what Natasha feels about life, it illustrates what I think about life.)

I secretly think everyone feels that way about life, though. At least, I hope they do! What a bore life would be if it really only went as far as the surface?

. . .

P.S. You should click the photo for a link to more of Diane Arbus’ work. Turns out she is a very interesting photographer, and has some stunning photographs of individuals that certainly reflect her idea that photographs are secrets that make you want to know more.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 17 February 2011 20:08

    Hi Mallery, I’m really glad you liked the book – it’s kind of nerve-wracking having people read it and I’m always worried they’ll feel they’ve wasted their time and/or money. I love that Diane Arbus quote and I loved reading your interpretation of it and how it fitted in to the book; it’s so nice to have a reader who has thought deeply about what she’s read. Thanks again.
    Natasha Lester

  2. 20 February 2011 16:59

    Hi Natasha,

    I definitely have not wasted my time or money! It might even be one of those books I’ll read again–which is rare for me to do. I can understand why it would be nerve-wracking, I’m the same way with my own writing. I’ve only published poetry so far, but always working on more!

    Thanks for the great read, I look forward to your next book. (-:



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