“You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw. ” – Diane Arbus
There are so many great photographers out there and I wish I knew a little more about what I am doing with my camera so I will sign up for photo classes. One of the photographers I admire is Diane Arbus. I saw one exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art a long time ago and ever since I wanted to know everything about her. I read “Diane Arbus: A Biography” by Patricia Bosworth which was a great way to gain more inside on how Diane lived, felt and worked back in her days. I also purchases “Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph” by Marvin Israel and Doon Arbus (Diane’s daughter) This book is just a great collection of some of her artwork which I love to look at. Have you ever heard anything of Diane Arbus? I will give you a little insight so you can get a picture (ha!) of what she is about.
Diane (pronounced Dee-ann) Arbus was born in 1923 (Diane Nemerov) to a wealthy Jewish family. She was raised with her two siblings in the rich neighborhood on Central Park West and stated once in an interview that “I grew up feeling immune and exempt from circumstance. One of the things I suffered from was that I never felt adversity. I was confirmed in a sense of unreality.” Her mother suffered from depression and her father was never at home due to a very busy working schedule. When Diane was 13 years old she met Allan Arbus who was an employee in their parents’ store. They fell in love and married as soon as she turned 18 years old. Allan studied photography to become a fashion photographer while Diane stayed at home with their two daughters Doon and Yolanda. Upon his graduation he started his business and Diane helped him style the models and was more in the background supporting him. Diane grew more and more unhappy with this position in her life and Allan bought her a camera. She was bored by fashion photography and fashion for that matter and left her husbands’ business to start looking for something else to photograph. First they separated professionally and then also decided to separate personally. They remained friends however.
She took little jobs here and there and found what she loved to do the most – to take pictures that nobody else did before.Pictures of anything that was seen surreal or ugly by general society. Arbus stayed at a nudist camp for example to take pictures, transgender people, giants and dwarfs or disabled people. What I love the most is that she would spend hours talking to these people to make them comfortable and then take their pictures usually at their home. She never changed or arranged anything. The way they presented themselves to her naturally – this is the picture she took. From this point on she became famous quickly and had exhibits in several museums throughout the country. She did not care too much about her fame however. Diane suffered from severe depression (like her mother) and committed suicide in July 1971 at the young age of 48 years old.
Once you get familiar with Arbus’ photography you will recognize her art whenever you see pictures by her. Another famous photograph is called “A Jewish giant at home with his parents” that I really like:
I believe all her art is simply amazing to look at. Sometimes I wonder why all these people let her do this. Why did they let her go home with them and take these sometimes very private pictures? She took many pictures of retarded and otherwise mentally disturbed people in mental institutions at points. Who let her take those and why? I guess we won’t find an answer.
“Arbus waits for the moment of fullest expression of disability: she shows people who are slack-jawed, vacant, drooling, uncoordinated, uncontrolled, demented-looking. She does not flinch from the truth that difference is different, and therefore frightening, threatening, disgusting. She does not put herself above us — she implicates herself in the accusation.”
There is also a great movie about her life called “Fur” which is very well done and gives you more insight of her life. Go check it out! In a way she was a freak herself. Her life, her depression and her suicide but oh so great at the same time. Let me know if you know her and what you think. Also if you decide to study her further. Thank you for reading.