Thursday, July 23, 2009
Diane Arbus: Photographing the Other Side
ONE OF MY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS IS DIANE ARBUS (1923 - 1971), a photographer who knew fame for only about 5 short years. Her debut to the art world was MOMA’s exhibition called New Documents, in 1967. I was in college when she died of suicide in 1971, and I am not sure I even knew much about her at that time. It was about 1972 or 73 when I first saw her work, and I was amazed at what I saw. For sure, Arbus changed the way we look at the world. Without Arbus, our artistic eyes would would be lacking a lens. Arbus was a visual genius.
“Nothing about her life, her photographs or her death was accidental or ordinary,” wrote Richard Avedon. “They were mysterious and decisive and unimaginable except to her. Which is the way it is with genius.”
This is a short film made about Diane and features her daughter Doon, teacher Lisette Model, colleague Marvin Israel, and John Szarkowski, at that time the director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. I have heard that Doon Arbus is quite reclusive and protective of her mother’s estate and images. I don’t blame her.