diane arbus photographer

“Nothing is ever the same as they said it was.” –Diane Arbus, born on this day in 1923. 

This week’s #NotOnView selection highlights another woman artist featured in our collection. We are celebrating many more on our Pinterest page as part of Women’s History Month.

Diane Arbus, Lady at a masked ball with two roses on her dress, N.Y., 1967, 1979. Halftone photogravure. 9 ¾ x 10 in. (24.8 x 25.4 cm). Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, UCLA. Gift of Robert Heinecken.


In 1962, photographer Diane Arbus arranged to take a small series of photographs at Disneyland. These three images were the result.

Top: A Castle in Disneyland, Cal. 1962

Center: A Rock in Disneyland, Cal. 1962

Bottom: Rocks on Wheels, Disneyland, Cal. 1962

In her notes taken that day, Arbus wrote:

“There are wonderful pseudo places at dawn in Disneyland, ruins of Cambodian temples which never existed, false deserts littered with bones of animals who never died; like a shrine for unbelievers. And black swans swim in the moat of a castle which looks like the advertisement for a dream.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?


The Look of Sherlock Season 3, E1 & E2:
Gregory Crewdson‘s Influence on Steve Lawes 

Gregory Crewdson

Crewdson’s photographs usually take place in small town America, but are dramatic and cinematic. They feature often disturbing, surreal events. The photographs are shot using a large crew and are elaborately staged and lighted. He has cited the films Vertigo, The Night of the Hunter, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blue Velvet, and Safe as having influenced his style, as well as the painter Edward Hopper and photographer Diane Arbus.

Steve Lawes: …what I love about Crewdson’s work is that he captures what I feel we really see with our eyes although it’s heightened and it’s exaggerated. It’s that idea of sodium light, that sort of radiation you get off sodium light, fluorescent light, all those different tones and colors you know how they kick off a pavement, how they kick off the road, things like wet-downs you know. I’m forever winding production up because I want roads wet down.

If you look at a Crewdson frame it’s like a painting. It’s like a Dutch master: you can look at parts of the frame, you can sit there. That’s what I try and do with my cinematography. I try and create frames that if they were put on a still people would look at them and go “there’s depth in the frame” which brings me to the importance of framing and relationships in the frame. 

In terms of influences I’d say that Crewdson has probably had the most dramatic influence on me in terms of you could probably look at Crewdson’s work and then look at my work and see that there’s a similarity.

…what I love about Crewdson’s work is that again there is this scale and this color and there’s everything. They’re paintings. I tend to be drawn to darker things you know dark in terms of contrast but also dark as in terms of subject. I find it more interesting. The kind of underbelly. There’s something I love about Crewdson’s work which is that there’s something not quite… it always feels slightly on edge. There’s something not quite right about it. I think it’s really interesting the idea that you… it’s about being as subtle as possible. And I think what Crewdson does so well is that he does lots of really dramatic things but he does them very subtly.  So what you’re actually getting and the fact that he creates this frame and does the shot and you look at it. A lot of time when you start off in terms of cinematography or photography… when I first started I wouldn’t put a light somewhere unless I thought it was justified because if you want your lighting to look real then really it should only come in the direction the sun comes in. Well you soon learn that if you do that you’re on a hiding to nothing because it’s very difficult to do that. What you tend to do is you tend to stick to that rule but then you bend it slightly which is what Crewdson does which is if you want to have a different color in the frame you can create different color in the frame. You don’t necessarily need to justify it. It can be there for an aesthetic reason. It can be there for all sorts of reasons. What you’re actually doing is you’re creating different things in the frame because you have the ability to do that. Visually Crewdson’s been a very big influence on me.