A new Diane Arbus exhibit in New York City re-creates the Museum of Modern Art's posthumous showing of the photographer's work 50 yeas ago.

Reading about the Arbus retrospective at David Zwirner's West 20th Street Gallery in Chelsea, I recalled one of the most exhilarating art experiences I've had: seeing Arbus' photos at the New Orleans Museum of Art in the early 1970s. 

That was the same exhibit that shocked and thrilled crowds at MOMA in 1972. Arbus, who committed suicide in 1971, produced portraits of giants, dwarfs, sex workers, young couples, cross-dressers and twins.

Her brother, the poet Howard Nemerov, said her subjects were "freaks, professional travestites, strong men, tattooed men, the children of the very rich," according to a review of the Zwirner exhibit by the Washington Post's Sebastian Smee.

Arbus' photos of her "freaks" were shocking, yet revealed the humanity of those shunned by mainstream society. Shot in somber black and white, with dark gray tones, the photos captured her subjects' expressive eyes, illuminating their inner souls. 

On that sunny day 50 years ago, I staggered out of the New Orleans art museum, as if swept by a giant wave, a "Cataclysm," as the Zwirner exhibit is titled.