Was Diane Arbus the Most Radical Photographer of the 20th Century?
July 20, 2016 8:23 AM   Subscribe

A new biography and Met exhibit show how she sacrificed her marriage, her friendships, and eventually her life for her career as an artist living on the edge (SL NYMag)

Diane Arbus would continue numbering her negatives over the next 15 years, up until her suicide at the age of 48. But this first moment of self-awareness, when she confessed to herself that she was an artist, is pivotal to both a new book and a show of her earliest works opening today. “I can’t do it anymore” — that’s how Arthur Lubow’s essential biography, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, starts out; the exhibit at the Met Breuer, “diane arbus: in the beginning,” features about 70 never-before-seen prints, the experiments that immediately followed “#1.” Together, these go a long way toward making whole an artist who’s long been distorted by a cult of personality.
posted by mandolin conspiracy (15 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe I'm missing some context, but I can't for the life of me figure out why this dude thinks he's entitled to call her "Diane."
posted by praemunire at 8:46 AM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm confused. In the New York article, it says:
Few of her subjects understood that she was more than some petite, amateur lady-photographer; outside of her work for hire, she rarely asked for releases.
But in this New Yorker article, it says:
Arbus was scrupulous about the legality of her ventures, obtaining permission from her subjects to photograph them and to reproduce the results.
I don't know why I'm so concerned about this though. Ultimately, it only speaks to the degree to which she was exploiting her subjects.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2016

Maybe I'm missing some context, but I can't for the life of me figure out why this dude thinks he's entitled to call her "Diane."

It's probably to differentiate her from her husband. (And Alex Mar is a woman)
posted by starman at 9:34 AM on July 20, 2016

In a book-length biography, where you often end up with multiple important people with the same last name recurring over long periods, the first-name expedient is understandable. For a longform piece in which the husband is only a minor character, distasteful. (Thanks for the correction on Mar, though.)
posted by praemunire at 9:44 AM on July 20, 2016

Surely Mapplethorpe.
posted by parmanparman at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Allan and Howard, her husband and brother, are both referred to by their first names)
posted by Lucinda at 10:43 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this post.
posted by jessamyn at 11:43 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Allan Arbus
Howard Nemerov
posted by blob at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2016

The sense I've always had from both her work and the Patricia Bosworth bio I read is that she'd prefer being called Diane to something more formal. She wasn't exactly a traditionalist. She was a privileged chick (very wealthy background) who hung with regular folks in the park and was very much into not telling people "who" she was. Shit, I can't wait to see this Met Breuer exhibition in the fall. Can't. Wait. Her work is fucking everything.
posted by heyho at 2:56 PM on July 20, 2016

People who grew up after Diane Arbus died don't realize it, but you are very much living in the aesthetic world she created. I'd call her the Beatles of photography, but she was so personally radical in her sexuality, and so tragically mentally ill, that the comparison falls apart. Maybe she was the Lenny Bruce of photography.
posted by Modest House at 3:16 PM on July 20, 2016 [6 favorites]

How I LONG to see this Met exhibit.
posted by little mouth at 4:05 PM on July 20, 2016

My all time favorite Diane Arbus shot (NSFW) which is so ridiculus that I have to put NSFW because it is the epitome of normal living.
posted by adamvasco at 5:11 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting this!

I have tended to think of photographers as artists at a remove from their work, as if the camera itself is a type of barrier between artist and subject.

This article helped me understand that I was doing that, and that my thinking was incorrect.
posted by hilaryjade at 7:46 PM on July 20, 2016

I knew very little about Arbus before reading this. What a fascinating article. Thanks for posting.
posted by Salamander at 10:47 PM on July 20, 2016

wow - great article - thank you for sharing!!!!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:45 AM on August 5, 2016

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