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18 January 2017

We'd gone through the Diane Arbus exhibit at SFMOMA twice, burning our favorite images into the old bean so we'd have something to think about on the streetcar ride home. It was a press event so we were discretely escorted out of the building into the rain.

But first we thought we'd stop in at the Mechanics' Institute to make a few notes in those large, quiet (and dry) rooms. We only had to go two blocks to get there but the rain was coming down hard enough we thought we just might have to resort to the umbrella we'd stuffed in our coat pocket.

Still, we bravely (obstinately even) walked alongside the buildings in Minna alley to avoid the rain drops as long as we could. And as we did, we had to swerve into the street to avoid a box of garbage.

There was nothing particularly attractive about that garbage. It was just garbage and in our way. But there we noticed some easily read text staring us in the face as we passed.

We can never avoid the temptation to read.

There on a black bag soaked by the rain and covered by wet cardboard packing boxes was today's lesson stitched in white:

beauty starts from within. this bag.

That's cute, we observed and forged ahead.

No, no, no. Wait a minute. That's perfect. That's Arbus. Beauty isn't skin deep. You don't just take some right-angle viewfinder and surreptitiously shoot portraits on the street.

You engage your subject. Look at them. If they look back, you've made a connection. And when you've made a connection, you've got a photo. Because only then have you seen the beauty that starts from within.

We had to have that shot.

So we stopped, walked back and took our position by the garbage, framing the shot with our iPhone.

It wasn't easy resizing this image. The full frame version at 500 pixels makes the type unreadable. So we used the Upright tool in Photoshop CC to straighten out the verticals. Which happily also made the type larger.

The bag was probably nothing more than a giveaway cosmetics promotion. But we liked the message. It was as if Diane Arbus herself had taken a moment out of whatever she is doing for eternity to remind this wet and weary photographer navigating a back alley in the big city that beauty is everywhere, even in this bag, all the time.

You just have to stop and look at it. Then you'll see it.

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