Diane Arbus


Diane Arbus was born as Diane Nemerov in  New York, March 1923. An American photographer known for her black-and-white square photographs of “deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers) or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal”. A 2006, the motion picture Fur, starring Nicole Kidman as Arbus, was based very vaguely on her life.


Coming from a wealthy Jewish  wealth, Arbus was insulated from the effects of the Great Depression while growing up in the 1930s. At the age of eighteen, she married  Allan Arbus. After world war II the Arbuses began a commercial photography business called “Diane & Allan Arbus,” with Diane as art director and Allan as the photographer their clients included Glamour, Seventeen, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other magazines even though “they both hated the fashion world.”

In 1956, Arbus quit commercial photography to study under Lisette Model, although earlier she had studied photography with Berenice Abbott. In 1959 she began photographing on assignment for magazines such as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Sunday Times Magazine . Around 1962, about Arbus switched from a 35mm camera (which produced rectangular images) to a 6×6 twin-lens reflex camera (which produced more detailed square images), a styled that would become her hallmark.

Identical Twins depicts two young twin sisters, Cathleen and Colleen Wade, standing side by side in matching corduroy dresses, white tights, and white headbands in their dark hair. Both stare into the camera, one slightly smiles and the other slightly frowns. The twins were seven years old when Arbus spotted them at a Christmas party for twins and triplets. The twins’ father once said about the photo, “We thought it was the worst likeness of the twins we’d ever seen.” It is also the interspersion for



Arbus believed that a camera could be “a little bit cold, a little bit harsh” but its scrutiny revealed the truth; the difference between what people wanted others to see and what they really did see – the flaws.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.

One study published in 1985 examined the opinions of eighteen women viewing eight Arbus photographs. The subjects tended to agree with statements based on Arbus’s own words such as “These photographs show the gap between intention and effect,” and tended to disagree with statements based on critics’ views of Arbus such as “These photographs show the world only as a meaningless place of ugliness, horror and misery.”

Arbus suffered from depression her whole life during she also suffered from hepatitis. Arbus wrote in 1968, “I go up and down a lot,” and her ex-husband noted that she had “violent changes of mood.” In July, 1971, while living at Westbeth Artists Community in New York City, Arbus took her own life by ingesting barbiturates and slashing her wrists with a razor, her body was found in the bathtub two days later. She was 48 years old.





for more info and photos from Dianne Arbus look at

Revelations: Diane Arbus [Hardcover]

  • ISBN-10: 0224071831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224071833


Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph

  • ISBN-10: 1597111740
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597111744

Reproduction (photocopying, hand-held camera copying, photoduplication and other forms of copying allowed by “fair use”. Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., 20540-4730





Leave a Reply