In early May we are driving south from Phoenix on Interstate 10. The land in every direction is sparsely vegetated—saguaro cactus, organ pipe cholla, barrel cactus, and mesquite. Dust blows across this big sandbox. The sky is hazy. To the east, in the distance, are what appear to be massive heaps of dirt left over from some grand construction project gone wrong. But this is a trick of light.
After Graham stopped returning my texts, I started leaving little parts of myself all over the Internet. In his early twenties, especially, Graham left doorways to himself everywhere—not just the normal abandoned social portals of MySpace and Friendster, but also a blog with a cursor shaped like a hot pink mouth. When I clicked on an entry, the disembodied lips smacked. Sickened, I kept clicking as the computerized sucking noise pulled me into page after page of journal entries, photos, digital check-ins at bars where he’d time-stamped his arrival.
When she is young, the name “Mary” is very common. If Social Security records for the ranked popularity of baby names in any given year went back to the first century, “Mary” would be number one on the list for hundreds of years. Sometimes, when she is meeting a person for the first time, they ask her if she likes her name. Sure, she replies. It turns out they usually have an aunt or a great-aunt, a teacher or a boss, named Mary of whom they are not very fond.
The people whom Arbus photographed were probably separated from their families when they were born. Their mothers and fathers were most likely told that they would be too much of a burden to raise. However, none of this is really what we are supposed to be thinking about when viewing the Untitled series. We are told to think about the compositional choices, the lighting, the true talent of Arbus who discovered these subjects.