Today I want to look at the work of one of my fave photographers Diane Arbus, the daughter of wealthy New York department store owners who would show the world the lives they often couldn’t see, Arbus would abandon commercial fashion and lifestyle photography to follow her passion for reportage.
“I do feel I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.”
I love Arbus for her ability to peer into the world around her and create pieces that were original and beautiful, she always feared that she would become known purely as “a photographer of freaks” however her work shows much more than that, the documenting of life from dance halls to tea in sitting rooms.
“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been”
Generally framed in a square shot, though not always, she produced vignettes of sub culture and the oddities of life that we miss, continuing the line of photographers using art to document life that stretched from Brandt and Bresson into the modern day with Parr and many more.
“Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you. And that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect.”
Full retrospectives of her work have been difficult, Arbus committed suicide in 1971 at the age of 48, her family have since controlled use of images very tightly and whole folios of images have been withdrawn from show, however the legacy she left behind has lived on in her influence on a whole medium.
For me she remains however one of the great American artists who should be celebrated as much a Georgia O’Keefe, Jasper Johns, or Andy Warhol.