The SVA library has two new books on the American photographer Diane Arbus (1923–1971). Most popularly known for her photographs of societal outsiders, Arbus challenged the delineation of normality and abnormality, allowing the ordinary to be seen for its exceptional qualities, and the estranged to become the extraordinary. From Oxford Art Online, “Arbus exemplified clearly the shift during the 1960s from objectivity to subjectivity in documentary photography. Her portraits are an exposition of her personal fascination with American mores as seen through outsiders such as dwarfs, giants, twins, and the elderly. Arbus did exploit her subjects in that she used them as metaphors of her own sense of what it was to be an individual, but her self-searching was not mere self-indulgence; her cri de coeur was a collective one that encompassed not only the stigmatized members of society but also the ‘normal’.”
diane arbus: in the beginning, was created to accompany a Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition of the same name. Focusing on the first seven years of the photographer’s art practice (1956-1962), the collection includes many of her most iconic images, although over half of the photographs in the book are published here for the first time, creating a comprehensive guide to the formative years of Arbus’ artistic style. In addition to photographs, the book includes negatives, appointment books, notebooks, and an essay by curator Jeff L. Rosenheim.
Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer is a new biography by Arthur Lubow that draws on exclusive interviews with the people closest to Arbus and previously unknown letters to expand our understanding of her life. From the publisher’s description, “It is impossible to understand the transfixing power of Arbus’s photographs without exploring her life. Lubow…deftly traces Arbus’s development from a wealthy, sexually precocious free spirit into first, a successful New York fashion photographer and then, a singular artist who coaxed secrets from her subjects. Lubow reveals that Arbus’s profound need not only to see her subjects but to be seen by them drove her to forge unusually close bonds with these people, helping her discover the fantasies, pain, and heroism within each of them, and leading her to create a new kind of photographic portraiture charged with an unnerving complicity between the subject and the viewer.”
You can find both of these titles on the new book shelf of the Main library. For more work by the Diane Arbus, check out Diane Arbus: Revelations and Diane Arbus: The Libraries. We also have a DVD of the film Fur, an imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus starring Nicole Kidman.