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Diane Arbus (1923 - 1971)

New York, NY

by Diane Arbus
Teenage couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C.
1963

A photograph by the late Diane Arbus was on view during Audart's exhibition "Important Women Photographers". The show, sponsored by The National Organization For Women in New York was curated by Jacqui Taylor Basker, who was Director of Westbeth Gallery, at the time.

Diane Nemerov was born in New York City on March 14, 1923. At fourteen, she met Allan Arbus, her future husband. Four years later, they married against her parents' wishes. At this time, Allan began teaching Diane photography. During World War II, Allan was trained at the Signal Corps photography school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Allan would teach Diane in a makeshift darkroom the couple set up in their bathroom. After the war, Allan and Diane set out together on a career in the fashion photography business.

In 1957 Diane began to work independently from Allan. At the same time, her marriage to Allan was falling apart. The two eventually separated in 1959. Also in 1959, Diane began to study photography under Lisette Model. At this time, Diane dissented from fashion photography, and chose to focus on people who were different. She enjoyed photographing the so-called "freaks", transvestites and asylum patients. "Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe. There's a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats." -Diane Arbus

In 1963, Diane Arbus recieved the Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1964, she was honored with her first exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. In 1966, she was honored, once again, with a Guggenheim Fellowship. Arbus' work also appeared in New York's Museum of Modern Art in the 1967 "New Documents" photography show. After that exhibit, she began teaching photography at various schools including the Parsons School of Design in New York and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

In 1970, she compiled a portfolio of 10 photographs creating her first series of limited editions. In July of 1971, Diane Arbus ended her life by ingesting a large quantity of barbiturates and slitting her wrists. Posthumously, Diane Arbus was the first American photographer to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale, in 1972.

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