That vulnerability is part of what attracts people to Arbus' work, and it is echoed in her own life. It is echoed too in the design of the exhibition, which requires viewers to decide how they want to view. There is no prescribed route, unlike in most exhibitions which lead the viewer by the hand, chronologically, thematically. Here, what order in which to view the photos, how to view them, whether to view them all – all these decisions rest with the viewer, and with them the responsibility for their experience.
Art historian Alexander Nemerov writes about a particular type of courage shown by Arbus, the aunt he never met but who was a feature in his life, if only as a secret in the house in which he grew up. His father and Diane's brother, the poet Howard Nemerov, stashed in a drawer a photo Diane inscribed to him; he seemed to find her work repugnant. In Silent Dialogues, the younger Nemerov describes his father's and aunt's different approaches to their art in a way that reflects the sensibility of the Hayward Gallery's display of Arbus' earlier work:
'Arbus had the courage not only to bend photography over backward but to bend her own written eloquence backward, too, all to portray what the floating balls and the shimmering pools and the crystalline fountains do not: namely, some dumbness beyond her mind. The world for my father responded only to his intelligence - the balls spin because, as he put it in another poem, "The mind's eye lit the sun." Nothing moves, nothing glows, not the wasp on the beach ball, not the fire spouting from the star, but that the poet's mind makes it. Arbus, by contrast, could see the world as it was without her. She simply gave it the chance to be as it was.'
In Arbus' work, Nemerov writes, the 'dumbness' or blankness is a vacancy in which 'the world discloses itself'. Facilitating this disclosure was the role Arbus saw for herself.
Diane Arbus: in the beginning, at the Hayward Gallery, 13 Feb-6 May 2019
 Alexander Nemerov, Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus & Howard Nemerov, San Francisco, CA: Fraenkel Gallery, 2015