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Yesterday In History - 3.14.1923 - Diane Arbus Is Born : D

So I’m a day late - I’M SORRY DIANE!!! But today (because I like to pretend & and I  H A T E being late) the great Diane Arbus was born! This also happens to be MY day (see previous post on “Pi Day”) Seems we also share the magic of 5 (and 23 for me too) : D

Born March 14, 1923, Diane was a revolutionary American photographer & writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of “deviant & marginal people, or of people whose normality seemed ugly or surreal.” Personally, I really hate how society bases beauty, however, Diane’s edgy style allowed her to beautifully capture another side of life!

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. But in her case, BEAUTY!

Arbus always feared that she would be known simply as “the photographer of freaks” however her photographs paint an entirely different story!

In 1946, after the war, Diane & her father Allen began a commercial photography business called “Diane & Allen Arbus”. With Diane as art director & Allan as the photographer, they contributed to Glamour, Seventeen, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and many others even though they both “hated the fashion world”.

In 1956 she quit her commercial photography business, and although she previously studied with Berenice Abbott, it was her studies with Lisette Model in 1956 that led to her most well-known, boxy methods of style.

In 1959 she began photographing on assignment for magazines such as Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and The Sunday Times Magazine. Around 1962, Arbus switched from a 35mm Nikon camera which produced a grainy rectangular image, to a twin-lens, reflex Rolleiflex camera which produced more detailed squared images. In 1964, Arbus began using a twin-lens reflex Mamiya camera with a flash, in addition to the Rolleiflex. Her methods included establishing a strong personal relationship with her subjects and often re-photographing some of them over many years.

Among her many awards, in 1972, Arbus became the first American photographer (and WOMAN at that!) to have her photographs displayed at the Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition that takes place in Venice once every 2 years. In addition to the art exhibition, also on display is the Venice Film Festival, the Venice Beinnale of Architecture, and the International Festival of Contemporary Dance. She was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project on “American rites, manners, and customs” in 1963. The fellowship was again renewed in 1966. (YOU GO GIRL!!)

During the 1960’s she taught photography at the Parsons School of Design, Cooper Union in New York City, and at Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence Rhode Island. The first major exhibition of her photographs occurred at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967, at a show called “New Documents” which also featured artists such as Garry Winogrand & Lee Friedlander.  Although she did continue to photograph on assignment, in general, as her fame as an artist increased, her magazine assignments took a back seat. In 1970, John Szarkowski hired Arbus to research an exhibition on photojournalism called, “From the Picture Press”, which included many photographs by Weegee, whose work Diane greatly admired!

Using a softer light than in her previous photography, Diane took a series of photographs in her later years of people with intellectual disability showing a range of emotions. Arbus considered these photographs to be “lyric and tender and pretty”.

Among her amazing works of photography, below is a list of a few of her most notable literary works:

  • "The Vertical Journey: Six Movements of a Moment Within the Heart of the City", Esquire, July 1960. This was the first magazine article that Arbus produced without her father, Allan Arbus.
  • "The Full Circle", Harper’s Bazaar, November 1961. This included 4,000 words of text and photographs of five people such as “Jack Dracula, the Marked Man”.
  • "Mae West: Emotion in Motion", Show, January 1965. Although Arbus’s writing showed “great style and lucidity”, West’s lawyer wrote a letter to the publisher claiming that Arbus’s photographs were “unflattering” to West. (#RAWR - too bad!!)
  • "La Dolce Viva", by Barbara L. Goldsmith, New York, April 29, 1968. The article included a large photograph by Arbus of actress and model Viva reclining on a sofa; her breasts are bare, and her eyes are rolled upwards as though she had taken psychoactive drugs. Unfortunately, as a result of the photograph, Vogue magazine canceled its modeling contracts with Viva.
  • "Five Photographs by Diane Arbus". Artforum, volume 9, pages 64–69, May 1971. This article contains a famous quotation by Arbus: “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

Please enjoy some of my favorite photographs from Diane & a quote below!

“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” Beauty, perhaps? … As she has inspired me, I’ve made it my duty to one day dedicate a fashion show in honor of SHE!  We L O V E you Diane!! ::greater than three:: <3

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