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Two Ladies at the Automat (New York City)

Black and white photograph, two older women, in suits and hats, smoking, at diner table.

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  • Black and white photograph, two older women, in suits and hats, smoking, at diner table.


1966, printed 1977


Diane Arbus
American, 1923–1971

About this artwork

Just two years before she received her first camera, Diane Arbus wrote: “There are and have been and will be an infinite number of things on Earth. Individuals all different, all wanting different things, all knowing different things, all loving different things, all looking different… . That is what I love: the differentness.” Arbus’s appreciation for the unusual, eccentric, and extraordinary led her to photograph a range of subjects over the thirty years of her career—transvestites, giants, art philanthropists, nudists, and, as here, similarly dressed and made-up women. These ladies, with their cigarettes poised in one hand and lighters clutched in the other, occupy a booth in a New York City automat. (Now nearly obsolete and a nostalgic choice even in the 1960s, automats offered simple fare, sold from coin-operated vending machines, that was eaten at surrounding booths and counters.) Like many of Arbus’s subjects, these women were photographed in a straightforward manner. The eerily matched ladies face the camera head-on, posed in front of an unadorned marble wall and staring directly at the viewer. The candor with which Arbus presented these women is typical of the pioneering, powerful first-person directness that exists throughout her photography.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Diane Arbus


Two Ladies at the Automat (New York City)


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1966


Gelatin silver print


Unmarked recto; stamped verso, upper left, in black ink: "Not to be reproduced in any way without written permission from Doon Arbus"; stamped, inscribed and signed verso, upper right, in black ink: "A Diane Arbus photograph / title [stamped] THE LADIES AT THE AUTOMAT, / N. Y. C. 1966 [inscribed] / print by [stamped] NEIL SELKIRK JAN 1977 [inscribed] / Doon Arbus [signed]"; inscribed verso, lower left, in graphite: "#3651"


Image: 37.5 × 37.5 cm (14 13/16 × 14 13/16 in.); Paper: 50.5 × 40.5 cm (19 15/16 × 16 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Theodore Collyer

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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