Diane Arbus began her career specializing in fashion. Ultimately she came to hate the work and in the late 1950s began to pursue portrait photography. Arbus took her likenesses in venues that were part of her subjects' daily lives. Rather than heroicizing these figures, she created photographs that seemed calculated to expose her subjects' vulnerabilities. That sort of candor did not please everyone. However, by the time Arbus took her own life in 1971, her work had found many admirers, and she is widely considered one of the most original portraitists of her time.
It is thought that this picture was taken in Central Park after a Vietnam War protest. Arbus's grim concentration, combined with the daffodil clenched in her mouth, creates a droll impact suggestive of her many tricks for making subjects drop their defenses before her camera.