Diane Arbus: A Biography

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W. W. Norton & Company, 1984 - Biography & Autobiography - 368 pages
5 Reviews
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.
 

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User Review  - oberonsfemale - Overstock.com

I have loved Diane Arbus since the first time I laid eyes on one of her photos. Her amazing and complex nature is utterly reflected in her magnificent photos and Ms. Bosworths book is a fascinating ... Read full review

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Diane Arbus: A Biography
By Patricia Bosworth
W.W. Norton & Company, 2006
ISBN: 9780393326611
400 pages
Diane Arbus was an innovative photographer known for her haunting portraits of figures on the edges of society who are often seen as “freakish”: transsexuals, little people, the mentally ill, circus performers. She pioneered an intimate style that included a squared frame that mimics the frame of early snapshots and specialized lighting that creates a surreal effect. Arbus’ goal was to show the world marginalized members of society, not to portray them as freaks, but to reveal their essential humanity. Arbus once said about her subjects, “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.”
It took a long time for Arbus to find her creative voice. She started out in the 1940s as a typical housewife, occasionally assisting her husband with his fashion photography. As the decade wore on, they became more of a creative team, and by the time the couple divorced in the late 1960s, she had already come into her own. However, things weren’t easy for Arbus; She suffered clinical depression most of her life, and it was during a severe depressive episode that she finally took her life in 1971.
Patricia Bosworth’s take on Arbus’ life is intriguing, if uneven. Bosworth’s account of Arbus’ childhood is extensive, but details of Arbus’ life post-separation from her husband are fairly scarce. The reader might find this annoying, but Bosworth makes up for the lack of detail by branching out and covering the New York art scene at the time. Though somewhat off-topic, these glimpses into the lives of other famous artists of the time make for fascinating reading. This biography is worth the read not only to learn about Arbus, but to learn about changes in the world—particularly in the world of art—during the women’s liberation movement.
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http://literature-and-water.blogspot.com/
 

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About the author (1984)

Patricia Bosworth is the author of biographies of Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. She is a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and has taught writing at Columbia University. She lives in New York.

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