Diane Arbus’s candid portraits of marginalized or overlooked people have drawn reverence and scrutiny. By comparison, this subject seems rather unremarkable. Yet in Arbus’s world, the ordinary starts to look dark and strange. The sitter is cast in shadow even as a large window and lamp light the rest of the room. The loneliness of the space is amplified by a vacant armchair. This deceptively plain image holds all the empathy for the human condition of Arbus’s best-known pictures.

Lady in a Rooming House Parlor, Albion, N.Y.,” 1963, by Diane Arbus