(Michael, you didn't go to this show when it opened at SFMOMA? tsk!)
It's hard to respond to this "criticism" given that Domenico writes about how maybe the images aren't as powerful, for some possibly technical reason, than what he remembers. I'd posit that comparing a print on the wall with your memory of something else (a photo in a book, etc) is at best a difficult proposition.
I visited the show twice -- personally, I liked it a lot(click here for a previous post). Too bad it's so pricey at LACMA, that wasn't the case here. Perhaps SF is inherently different from LA, in that here the photos were greeted by the museum audience with great admiration (and when the show first opened, many of the patrons looked like possible Arbus subjects, had they been in Washington Square Park fourty years earlier -- my later visit was full of the usual slick art-show-visitor crowd). Personally I'm a huge fan. Sometimes she hits, sometimes she misses, but the best of her photos make me cry in recognition of their beauty.
The biggest problem of the show, IMO, was the continued over-usage of her very late work with mentally disabled patients in New Jersey. A small number of these photos are truly sensational, but not all by any means. I'd rather have filled that gallery space with, say, more magazine work. I know, these prints are highly influential and much-copied -- but really only a couple of them have value beyond provocative oddity, while so much of Arbus's work -- in fact, just about all of the rest of it -- is far more penetrating and interesting (to me).
Fantastic! And far better as a print than a JPG.
Holding onto the identity of the subjects, a collision of warmth and discomfort.
Should not be in show (IMO): Image that's provocative, but empty. It could be an ad for a bank, these days.