Diane Arbus


Right Through the Very Heart of It
June 4 – July 31, 2009

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) began taking photographs in the 1940s while working with her husband, Allan Arbus, as a stylist collaborating in their fashion photography business. She studied photography with Berenice Abbott in the 1940s and with Alexey Brodovitch in the mid-1950s. While studying with Lisette Model in the mid-1950s, Arbus began the work for which she has come to be known, photographing unusual individuals, often those living on the fringes of mainstream society. Her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960. She worked for EsquireHarper's BazaarThe Sunday Times Magazine and others. 
In 1962, Arbus abandoned the 35mm camera she had been working with and started using a square format (2 1/4-inch twin-lens reflex) camera. The uncropped frame and straightforward composition of her portraits became a distinctive feature of her work. She was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 for her project on American Rites, Manners, and Customs. Although she primarily worked in New York and New Jersey, Arbus also traveled to Pennsylvania, Florida, and California to photograph new subjects. John Szarkowski of The Museum of Modern Art, explains that her photographs "are concerned with private rather than social realities, with psychological rather than visual coherence, with the prototypical and mythic rather than the topical and temporal. Her real subject is no less than the unique interior lives of those she photographed." Among her best known later works are the Untitled series, made at residences for people with mental disabilities between 1969 and 1971. Diane Arbus committed suicide in 1971.