A Permission Letter For Diane Arbus

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about effective networking and asking people for help. I pride myself on my independence and ability to ‘just get stuff done’, but I also think about something I read a while ago. The idea was that people want to help you when you’re in your twenties – you can ask questions and people will help you to find the answers – but by the time you’re in your thirties people become suspicious if you don’t know the answers yet. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it certainly puts a lot of pressure on twenty-somethings to have everything figured out.

There’s no shame in asking for help, and in many cases it can save you a lot of time. The material I’ve been engaging with lately suggests that people will want to help you (regardless of age) if you’re smart, ask the right questions, and are willing to follow the answer for yourself. I was thinking about whether that’s applicable to me when I came across this 1959 letter from Harold Hayes, articles editor at Esquire magazine, written to the police deputy at the time;

Dear Sir;

In connection with a special issue of esquire on the subject of New York, we have assigned Miss Diane Arbus, 131H Charles Street, N.Y., to photograph various aspects of city life. For some of her work she will need a Police pass. Detective Wanderer, with whom we spoke on the telephone this morning, suggested that we write to you for this permission.

Is there any way in which she could have special permission to accompany on police calls officers working out of the Charles Street Precinct? Thank you very much for whatever you can do for us.1

It was so encouraging to see that even the Diane Arbus (often depicted as independent and/or isolated) had help, and references, and pulled strings, and used her connections. I love how simple and straightforward this permission letter is. If you need something, ask for it. If you don’t think the request will have enough weight coming from you, see whose help you can enlist; it’s likely that a letter from your professor on academic letterhead will have more credence thanks an email from your personal Hotmail account.

1 Sussman, Elisabeth, and Doon Arbus. Diane Arbus; A Chronology.New York: Aperture, 2011. Print.


Image source: Garry Winogrand – Diane Arbus, Love-In, Central Park, New York City, 1969

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