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October 19: the big picture in snapshots

In the print and drawing corridor of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (to the left at the top of the stairs) is (or at any rate, recently was) a small but fascinating display of snapshots from an immense collection donated by Peter J. Cohen. Two panels are shown here.

The disposition of the pieces is deft. They are staggered and far enough apart that you see them as individual shots, but

snaps 2 close enough together that you can’t miss the enormous variety of similar images. Which is the point: amateurish though they are, and frequently cliched (what? another little boy standing at attention?) the repetition of observations common to us all–all those little kids, all those picnics, all those grandmothers–imparts a wonderful sense of the richness and intricacy of the world. It’s a visual evocation of Rilke’s line, that when speaking of people there are no plurals, “but only countless singulars.”