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June 14, 2011 / clinerose

Photography: Diane Arbus.

After spending last Monday morning touring St. Paul’s Cathedral in all its classical grandeur, David and I walked across the Millennium Bridge, over the River Thames, to the Tate Modern (talk about opposite ends of the spectrum). Amongst all the Picasso’s, Pollock’s and Warhol’s (which were all absolutely breath-taking), there was a temporary exhibition of the American photographer, Diane Arbus. To be honest, the Tate Modern was my first real introduction to Diane Arbus and her work. But as I was walking through the exhibit I kept thinking, Diane Arbus? Diane Arbus? How do I know that name? Turns out she is credited with saying “My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been” which is a quote I have always loved and strongly agree with. And if you recall, I used in an illustrated version of her quote in one of posts just last week. An eerie coincidence if you ask me.

Self Portrait Diane-Arbus-1949

I found the entire display very intriguing and at times, slightly disturbing. But it wasn’t until I read the description of the collection that I started to understand and appreciate the work of Diane Arbus. I saw the photos first, and then I read the description so I’m going to share them with you the same way. Scroll down through the pictures and THEN read about them.

Child with toy grenade Central Park NY 1962 by Diane Arbus

A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday Outing NY by Diane Arbus

Boy with Straw Hat, NYC by Diane Arbus 1967

The King and Queen of a Senior Citizen Dance, NYC, 1970

Masked Man at the Ball, NYC, 1967 Diane Arbus

Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, NYC, 1963 by Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus’s work explores the extraordinary variety that can be found in the lives, emotions and appearances of people, while maintaining a rigorous adherence to the formal language of black and white photography.

Arbus’s sophisticated approach to everyday subjects bridges the gap between documentary photography and fine art. In the late 1950s she studied with the Austrian-born photographer Lisette Model, whose tough and unconventional perspective on the everyday was taken by Arbus in bold new directions.

Through her commitment ‘to photograph everybody’, she often chose those whose situation or choices in life kept them on the margins of society. She built up relationships of trust with her subjects to create portraits of astonishing intimacy. Over the course of her career Arbus produced a remarkable body of work, wide-ranging in its content, but always consistent in its powerful and direct style. Upon her inclusion in the landmark photographic exhibition New Documents in 1967, Arbus was aptly described as ‘not aiming to reform life, but to know it’.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was born in New York City, where she lived and worked.

Xmas tree in a Living room in Levington 1963 Diane Arbus

Of all the pictures of faces and people, my favorite photo by far was this picture of a Living Room decorated for Christmas. I love that even though the room is perfectly still, it evokes such energy and emotion with the untouched presents and decorated tree.  And, I love the decor. Are you shocked? I’m not. I find the one photo of an interior and fall in love with it on the spot. Typical.

All photos courtesy of Diane Arbus.

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One Comment

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  1. Paul Keppel / Jan 3 2012 8:27 PM

    Was a good read, I’m struggling through susan sontags book trying to critique her critique about arbus, is tough going.

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