Sunday, June 24, 2012

Diane Arbus: The Weird and the Wonderful


Looking through the images of Helmut Newton in the last post, one might think that most of the world is glitz and glamour, and everything easy on the eyes. Of course, that's far from the truth, and most photographers just take pictures that sell the most. Some other photographers, however, made it their mission to capture the weird and wonderful, insisting on recording the beauty of the person as the whole. Photographer Diane Arbus made a name for herself doing just that.


Diane Arbus was born into a wealthy family in New York and so enjoyed a good childhood despite the 1930s Great Depression. Her entire family was artistically inclined, with her siblings becoming poets and artists later in life. While she had always had an interested in photography, it was only after she got married to her husband Allan Arbus that she would start to experiment in the medium.

The couple began to photograph for Russek, their family-owned department store, and then after World War II opened up their own photography studio. They began to photograph for the most popular fashion magazines at the time, including Glamour, Vogue, and Seventeen, but with husband Allan behind the camera and Diana acting more of an artistic director. Their photographs during this time weren't anything extraordinary however, which might have been due to the couple's distaste for fashion.


Diane resigned from their studio after 10 years and began to go out on assignment on her own, and then later on for magazines such as Esquire and Harper's Bazaar. Slowly, she began to develop her voyeuristic style of photojournalism. She chose to photograph the unpopular themes of her time, being drawn to the misfits and sexual deviants of society, even without any interest from magazines or museums.

She became even more hungry for new subjects, always being curious about the unseen world around her. Arbus wasn't just looking for the weird, but the human, which is why she often captured her subjects in their own place, at work or at home, to show that that although they were different, they were still the same. This desire and style might be why she described herself more as a photojournalist rather than an artist.


Arbus most likely would have continued exploring the world with her camera, but riddled with deppression and other illnesses, she took her own life by overdosing on pills and slashing her wrists. Even after her death, controversy still surrounded her works. Some critics insisted that Arbus' images were more about exploitation rather than documentation as there was no "majesty and beauty" in the pictures, only the rawness of the scene.

On the other hand, she gave light to those people who normally would never have been photographed, let alone published. Her images changed how photography should and would be used after her time. Arbus insisted that she only photographed those that she felt wouldn't have been given attention by the public, and while they are certainly controversial, her images have ensured that her subjects will live on.


Unfortunately, the late Diane Arbus doesn't have a website, so you'll have to make do with a Google search. More wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful photographs in the books Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph: Fortieth-Anniversary Edition, Diane Arbus Revelations and Diane Arbus: A Biography.

13 comments:

Ray Rousell said...

Very weird pics!!!!

Fang said...

Wow, that guy with the tattoos, insane! Now here's me wondering whether they were in full-colour or not.

D4 said...

I started this off thinking these were something the kids around Hot Topic would like. By mid-post I was loving her. She liked the odd. That's awesome.

Bart said...

that kid with the grenade looks badass.

Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

She does have a decently sized Wikipedia though http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diane_Arbus

I like the cut of her jib, these are cool. I'm back and trying to get people to check out my poetry blog, longdayhotshower.blogspot.com

GADAFINY said...

I agree with Bart.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

A little bit disturbing. Luckily that's just a foot peeking out from that towel.

G said...

some great looking characters

Banacek said...

"Come play with us Danny."

A Heel in Mint said...

Interesting pictures. :)

Fash Boulevard said...

Love it! Fabulous post, love. If you get a sec, I'd love to hear your thoughts on my interview for College Lifestyles Magazine. xo

www.fashboulevard.blogspot.com

T. Roger Thomas said...

Where are the weird ones?

r.alsharif said...

These were slightly creepy, out of curiosity, are you on instagram?

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