Photograph by Diane Arbus
‘A young man with curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C.,’ 1966
Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971) was an American photographer and writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of “deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transvestites, nudists, circus performers) or else of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal.” A friend said that Arbus said that she was “afraid… that she would be known simply as ‘the photographer of freaks'”; however, that term has been used repeatedly to describe her.
In 1972, a year after she committed suicide, Arbus became the first American photographer to have photographs displayed at the Venice Biennale. Millions of people viewed traveling exhibitions of her work in 1972-1979. In 2003-2006, Arbus and her work were the subjects of a another major traveling exhibition, Diane Arbus Revelations. In 2006, the motion picture Fur, starring Nicole Kidman as Arbus, presented a fictional version of her life story.
Although some of Arbus’s photographs have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, Arbus’s work has provoked controversy; for example, Norman Mailer was quoted in 1971 as saying “Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.”