Diane Arbus: A Biography
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Diane Arbus―now the subject of a national retrospective and a forthcoming movie―was the archetypal artist living on the edge.
Diane Arbus's unsettling photographs of dwarves and twins, transvestites and giants, both polarized and inspired, and her work had already become legendary when she committed suicide in 1971. This groundbreaking biography examines the private life behind Arbus's controversial art. The book deals with Arbus's pampered Manhattan childhood, her passionate marriage to Allan Arbus, their work together as fashion photographers, the emotional upheaval surrounding the end of their marriage, and the radical, liberating, and ultimately tragic turn Arbus's art took during the 1960s when she was so richly productive. This edition includes a new afterword by Patricia Bosworth that covers the phenomenon of Arbus since her death, the latest Arbus scholarship, and a view of the first major retrospective of Arbus's work as well as notes on the forthcoming motion picture based on her story. Bosworth's engrossing book is a portrait of a woman who drastically altered our sense of what is permissible in photography. 26 illustrations
Arnold, Toni Frissell, Ruth Orkin, Inge Morath, to name only a few), Diane did not associate herself with them. With the exception of Lisette Model, she never sought out women photographers for either advice or friendship. But she did bring her photographs for Tina Fredericks to comment on; she continued to do so even after Tina had left magazines and gone into real estate on Long Island. Diane would also show her contacts to Walter Silver, a documentary photographer who lived near her in the
art-directed the Ridgeway Press, came to see her. He was extremely enthusiastic about her pictures and knew that no book* of her work existed, so they talked of the possibility of one. “Diane was gentle and kind,” Squilaco recalls. “She showed me many photographs I’d never seen before. When I said, ‘Would you like to do a book with me?’ she answered, ‘I’ll have to ask my mentors—Richard Avedon and Marvin Israel. And of course Marvin would design any book I do.’ And I said, ‘But I’m the art
and Bea Feitler and Ruth Ansel were there, as were Doon, Amy, Gertrude Nemerov, Renée and Howard, and Richard Avedon. (At one point during the service Avedon murmured, “Oh, I wish I could be an artist like Diane!” And Frederick Eberstadt says he whispered back, “Oh, no you don’t.”) Howard gave the eulogy; it was short. Later he wrote a poem for Diane which has since been reprinted many times. To D—Dead by Her Own Hand My dear, I wonder if before the end You ever thought about a children’s
Ibid. 42 “The minute I saw it…”: Ibid. 42 “The emotion, the colors, the textures…”: Ibid. 42 “It was a tiny, eerie place…”: Louise Bernikow to PB, interview, June 5, 1980. 42 “It was a sweaty Sunday afternoon…”: Alexander Eliot, Zen Edge (Seabury Press, 1979), p. 66. 43 “Diane had a funny breastbone”: Alex Eliot to PB, interview, April 12, 1979. 43 “Diane was wondrously strange…”: Ibid. 43 “Your father reminds me…”: Ibid. 44 “She had told me…”: Ibid. 44 “tender but dominating…”: Ibid.
didn’t try out her culinary skills on her parents right away since they rarely visited the Arbus apartment on West 38th street. They were aware that “the kids” were struggling financially (Allan had two jobs—at Russeks and somewhere else as a salesman; he was also trying his hand at fashion photography with Diane acting as his assistant). But the Nemerovs didn’t give them any money. “We [Howard and I] never benefited from our parents’ wealth,” Diane said. “There was no sense that you could ever