LETTER: More than meets the critic's eye in Arbus's portraits

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The Independent Online
DESPITE enjoying the publication of Diane Arbus's collection of photographs, I was disappointed by the commentary given by Tim Hilton ("What I've been searching for", Review, 17 September).

Mr Hilton says that "the meaning of any festival was surely beyond the intellectual range of the people we see". This not only presumes that a person's level of intelligence can be judged by his or her appearance, but also that there is a general level of, to quote Mr Hilton, "subnormality" to which all the people photographed conform.

I would like to point out that the extent and range of learning difficulties in people with Down's Syndrome (or many other syndromes) can vary enormously, allowing many to function quite adequately in the same world enjoyed by the likes of Mr Hilton. To say that these people are absolved from the "normal adult's instinctive responses to another person's gaze" is not only untrue but also offensive. No one likes being stared at, particularly if the attraction is a disability.

I suggest that Mr Hilton pays a visit to one of the Adult Training Centres in his local district. He may be pleasantly surprised.

Tom Morris

London N4

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