Sunday, July 19, 2009

diane arbus

Halfway through the Patricia Bosworth biography of Diane Arbus and the book is finally getting interesting (the first half was an unsatisfying, sketchy portrait drawn by acquaintances. I imagined Diane's horror at the thought of a biography told through the mouths of her elementary school teachers and assistants whom she never saw socially). In the section titled "The Dark World," Diane has shed her twin/husband and career as a fashion photographer; she now spends her nights stalking the back alleys of New York in search of interesting faces, fueled by the desire to train her lens on what would terrify and propel her. She's becoming obsessed with Coney Island sideshows and the movie "Freaks." Does her identity as a rich girl (daughter of the owner of the Russeks department store chain) stunned and horrified by her subjects push her work toward the realm of the exploitative?

I hadn't seen much of Arbus' work from this period so I was excited to get my hands on two books with beautiful images of her work: Diane Arbus: Family Albums and Revelations. I'd recommend Revelations over the Bosworth book as an Arbus compendium. In addition to over 300 pages of stunning images of her work, personal photographs, letters and excerpts from her journal, there is a complete chronology of her life and work, including incredible photos, written by Doon Arbus (Diane's daughter).

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