Friday, February 25, 2011

Black and White Portraits by Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus was an American photographer and writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of "deviant and marginal people or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal."A friend said that Arbus said that she was "afraid... that she would be known simply as ’the photographer of freaks’"; however, that phrase has been used repeatedly to describe her.

In 1972, a year after she committed suicide, Arbus became the first American photographer to have photographs displayed at the Venice Biennale. Millions of people viewed traveling exhibitions of her work in 1972-1979. In 2003-2006, Arbus and her work were the subjects of another major traveling exhibition, Diane Arbus Revelations. In 2006, the motion picture Fur, starring Nicole Kidman as Arbus, presented a fictional version of her life story.

Although some of Arbus’s photographs have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, Arbus’s work has provoked controversy; for example, Norman Mailer was quoted in 1971 as saying "Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child."

Diane Arbus was born, to a wealthy Jewish family, in 1923. David Nemerov, her father, was the hard-working son of a Russian immigrant; her mother Gertrude was the daughter of the owners of Russek’s Fur Store. After the marriage, David helped manage Russek’s, and oversaw its transformation into a department store, Russek’s of Fifth Avenue, which specialized in furs. His interest, however, was in women’s clothing, and he was said to have an extraordinary intuition for what the next trend in women’s fashion would be.
Diane (pronounced Dee-Ann ) was a privileged child, raised with her two siblings in large apartments on Central Park West and Park Avenue. She later told Studs Terkel, for his Hard Times: An Oral History of the Depression , "I grew up feeling immune and exempt from circumstance. One of the things I suffered from was that I never felt adversity. I was confirmed in a sense of unreality."
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