...Diane committed herself to wandering NYC with her 35mm Nikon, following strangers down the street or lying in wait in doorways until she saw someone she felt compelled to photograph. This was the onset of a lifelong addiction to experience, which would feed her and consume her in equal measure. Around this time, she asked her husband to develop a roll of film, and she labeled the negatives’ glassine sleeve with a fine black marker: “#1.”
We label things in private as a promise to ourselves. We number things as an act of imagination — not unlike the way the Dutch mapped a grid of 12 avenues and 155 streets onto the mostly empty island of Manhattan. #1 — the beginning of something.
Arbus would continue numbering her negatives over the next 15 years, up until her suicide at the age of 48. But this first moment of self-awareness, when she confessed to herself that she was an artist, is pivotal...