Controversy in Black and White

      “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them”-Diane Arbus

The contained environment of studios never interested photographer Diane Arbus. Her unusual, intimate, and controversial black and white photographs are far from the standard magazine cover. Born March 14, 1923, in New York City, Arbus lead a modest but pampered childhood as the daughter of the owner of the Russeks department store on Fifth Avenue. At age 14, she met her then 19-year-old future husband Allan Arbus who she married in 1941.

Arbus worked alongside with her husband as his photography assistant shooting fashion photographers. Their first project was for the May 1947 issue of Glamour but Arbus felt dissatisfied working in the shallowness of the fashion industry. Her true love and artistic abilities shined when photographing family and friends.

Throughout the 50’s, Arbus was drawn to the misfits of society. Photographing nontraditional subjects lead her to leave the team her and her husband Allan had built up. He continued to operate their fashion studio solo while Arbus continued to experiment with her concept of nontraditional subjects.

Photographing the unusual, her photos began to focus on circus images, “freaks” and sideshow subjects. Then she transitioned to photographing nudist and strangers. She had no boundaries.

On July 26, 1971, Arbus committed suicide in her apartment in New York City. She had struggled with bouts of depression her entire life. Her work has been featured at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in magazines, books, galleries and other places. She won countless awards such as the Robert Levitt Award from the American Society of Magazine Photographers. Daring to go where very few went in her time, Diane Arbus’s career can be summed up in one word-courage. Without photographers like her, people would never see the “other half” of society.

-Haley Myles


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