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Diane Arbus: A Biography

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Like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefee, Diane Arbus exerts a fascination rooted in both her art and her life. Her startling photographic images of dwarfs, twins, transvestites, and freaks seemed from the first to redefine both the normal and the abnormal in our lives and they were already becoming part of the iconography of the age when Arbus committed suicide in 1971. Arbu Like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefee, Diane Arbus exerts a fascination rooted in both her art and her life. Her startling photographic images of dwarfs, twins, transvestites, and freaks seemed from the first to redefine both the normal and the abnormal in our lives and they were already becoming part of the iconography of the age when Arbus committed suicide in 1971. Arbus herself remained an enigma until the publication of this first full biography. Patricia Bosworth examines the life behind the eerie, mesmerizing photographs: Diane's pampered childhood; her passionate marriage to Allan Arbus and their work together as fashion photographers during the fifties; the emotional upheaval surrounding the end of that marriage; and the radically dark, liberating, and ultimately tragic turn Diane's art took during the sixties. Bosworth's engrossing book is a compassionate portrait of the woman behind some of the most powerful photographs of our time.


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Like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefee, Diane Arbus exerts a fascination rooted in both her art and her life. Her startling photographic images of dwarfs, twins, transvestites, and freaks seemed from the first to redefine both the normal and the abnormal in our lives and they were already becoming part of the iconography of the age when Arbus committed suicide in 1971. Arbu Like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefee, Diane Arbus exerts a fascination rooted in both her art and her life. Her startling photographic images of dwarfs, twins, transvestites, and freaks seemed from the first to redefine both the normal and the abnormal in our lives and they were already becoming part of the iconography of the age when Arbus committed suicide in 1971. Arbus herself remained an enigma until the publication of this first full biography. Patricia Bosworth examines the life behind the eerie, mesmerizing photographs: Diane's pampered childhood; her passionate marriage to Allan Arbus and their work together as fashion photographers during the fifties; the emotional upheaval surrounding the end of that marriage; and the radically dark, liberating, and ultimately tragic turn Diane's art took during the sixties. Bosworth's engrossing book is a compassionate portrait of the woman behind some of the most powerful photographs of our time.

30 review for Diane Arbus: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    maria

    Arbus' family would not cooperate with Bosworth's biography, and the resulting lack of documentation really shows. It feels improvised and untrustworthy and is overall just pretty poorly written. Looks like DIANE ARBUS REVELATIONS, a catalog of a huge retrospective organized by Arbus' family and SF MOMA, contains much better info (in addition to her actual photos, which Bosworth couldn't publish).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jakki Newton

    Diane Arbus frightens me. Her photographs frighten me (the faces of her subjects seem to stare straight into you), the way she always seemed to give herself away frightens me (her numerous sexual exploits, the confessionals that followed), and her suicide frightens me. I feel angry too. Angry that Allan Arbus left her for another women when she had sacrificed so much for him. I think their separation killed her. I feel angry about a comment at the end of the biography that people were bored with Diane Arbus frightens me. Her photographs frighten me (the faces of her subjects seem to stare straight into you), the way she always seemed to give herself away frightens me (her numerous sexual exploits, the confessionals that followed), and her suicide frightens me. I feel angry too. Angry that Allan Arbus left her for another women when she had sacrificed so much for him. I think their separation killed her. I feel angry about a comment at the end of the biography that people were bored with her depression. Depression is boring, and repetitive, and it goes on and on. Why didn't anyone help her? I am in awe of Diane Arbus. I cannot believe she was born the year after my own grandmother who seems from a different time entirely. She was brave to the point of reckless. I sense desperation in her ability to confront these worlds that she was afraid of. As if she is taking ownership of her anxiety, saying "OK if I am going to feel like this anyway I may as well create a reason to be afraid". There is poetry in this act. So I am obviously affected by this biography. I want to climb into the pages and save her. The book also made me think about the authorship of art history, and the nature of fame. How being in the right place at the right time is as much a part of the creation of Arbus as legacy as her intuition and talent. A moment in history that witnessed a cultural shift. In her case documented it. My one criticism of this book was the low quality of the photographs in my edition. And I wonder why Allan and Doon Arbus wouldn't contribute?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Suvi

    The curse of having too many interests: no patience to focus on one of them at a time. I would love to read biographies more, but there are too many interesting books and movies! I finally got back to them, but it was a conflicting experience. What I love about biographies is the fact that the good ones are well researched and objective. Memoirs leave room for the person to twist events in their favor or leave uncomfortable things out. The problem with trying to write about Diane Arbus specificall The curse of having too many interests: no patience to focus on one of them at a time. I would love to read biographies more, but there are too many interesting books and movies! I finally got back to them, but it was a conflicting experience. What I love about biographies is the fact that the good ones are well researched and objective. Memoirs leave room for the person to twist events in their favor or leave uncomfortable things out. The problem with trying to write about Diane Arbus specifically, though, is that she was very private. Patricia Bosworth's attempts to decipher her personality and motives seemed a tad useless, especially when she claimed to know what Arbus was thinking at a given time (no sources) or repeated people's perceptions of her. The latter isn't that bad when done sparingly, but when the author and her sources are all trying to probe her personality... Made me a little uncomfortable. If someone wants to live behind a curtain, let them. Overall, though, this might just be the best we can get about Arbus. She may have failed at becoming a wholesome 1950s housewife like she originally tried to be, but she was an incredibly talented photographer, who didn't seem to believe in herself all that much. Her burning desire to create and follow her passion is something we can all learn from. She poured her intensity and power into her photos. All her photos. She never wanted to be just a "freak" photographer. She sadly didn't see a way out of her depression and decided to cut her life short, but no one should be judged for that. She of all people was incredibly brave during her entire life.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Barrow Wilfong

    This was a briefer biography than Arthur Lubow's by about two hundred pages. While Bosworth did not shy away from Arbus' deviant sexual proclivities, she avoided that salacious detail Lubow enjoyed indulging in, which may account for the shorter version. Also, this biography was written in 1984 and without the cooperation of Arbus' husband, lover Marvin Israel or her daughters, Amy and Doon, which could also explain a greater lack of detail than Lubow's book. Her brother, Howard, mother, Gertrude This was a briefer biography than Arthur Lubow's by about two hundred pages. While Bosworth did not shy away from Arbus' deviant sexual proclivities, she avoided that salacious detail Lubow enjoyed indulging in, which may account for the shorter version. Also, this biography was written in 1984 and without the cooperation of Arbus' husband, lover Marvin Israel or her daughters, Amy and Doon, which could also explain a greater lack of detail than Lubow's book. Her brother, Howard, mother, Gertrude, and some of Diane's close friends, and about two hundred others did contribute. Having read Lubow's book, I see where he used Bosworth's biography as a resource. It is also interesting to see how much time has changed things. Many of the important or remarkable people Bosworth includes in her biography as reference points are unknown now. One, Richard Avedon, is still known, if for no other reason that a biography has just come out on his own life. The others you'll be lucky to find a Wikipedia bio. Arbus was a sad, tragic figure. She grew up in a rich, privileged home on Park Avenue with nannies and servants. Her parents were self-made businessmen whose families escaped the Jewish pogroms of Europe and created wealth through the fur coat business. The only thing her parents did not provide her or her brother and sister with was love, affection and attention. Gertrude Nemerov, Diane's mother, was self-absorbed and suffered from acute depression. David, her father, played mind games with his children. When he was angry with them he completely withdrew until he chose to "forgive" them. Diane, according to her own accounts was already showing signs of emotional disturbance at a young age. In fact she sounds like she may have suffered from Radical Attachment Disorder, something children from neglected households can develop. Whatever the reasons, Diane's heart gravitated toward the deviant and marginalized in society, "freaks" as she called them. Her photographs focus on circus entertainers, midgets, giants, deformed people as well as the grungier streets of New York City. A large part of her repertoire include transvestites, lesbians, and drug addicts. Arbus said that everyone has a secret and she wanted to pull that secret out of them with her camera. She was largely unrecognized during her life time. Many found her photos to be repulsive. Since her death in 1971 she has been considered one of the defining photographers of the sixties.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katie Jo

    I have never read a bio as engrossing as this. It reads like a novel and Diane Arbus is so bizarre and interesting that even the most trivial aspects of her life kept my attention. Apparently the movie Fur (one of my long time favorites) is based on this particular biography, but after reading it I see little connection, even knowing that the movie was intentionally very loosely referenced. Diane was a really fascinating person, and to be so famously mysterious a person I was impressed by how re I have never read a bio as engrossing as this. It reads like a novel and Diane Arbus is so bizarre and interesting that even the most trivial aspects of her life kept my attention. Apparently the movie Fur (one of my long time favorites) is based on this particular biography, but after reading it I see little connection, even knowing that the movie was intentionally very loosely referenced. Diane was a really fascinating person, and to be so famously mysterious a person I was impressed by how remarkably intimate Bosworth's portrait of her felt- she really did her homework. I typically have a hard time reading biographies (I prefer a first-person narrative) but I truly enjoyed this as much as I would a novel. The only bio I've read that rivals its readability is Alex Haley's of Malcolm X. Would absolutely recommend.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Diane Kidder

    You get the impression, when reading this book, that the family had approval of every word. It's too bad that the real story of her life may never be told. Maybe one day one of her children will attempt that. Still, engrossing reading. Like trying to solve a mystery: where did this woman come from, how did her vision develop, what, ultimately happened to her. Great companion book to have read before seeing the wonderful film "Fur".

  7. 5 out of 5

    Doug H - On Hiatus

    Full review to follow. (Which means I liked it enough to write a review, but I don't currently have enough energy to write a decent one and I will probably never actually get around to writing a review at all.)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Eh. The first third of the book is much stronger than the last two-thirds. Bosworth points out that Arbus was quite secretive about her daily life, and definitely liked to create her art A L O N E, so there is very little to say about, well, her and her art, because... no one really knows about it. Unfortunately, Bosworth tries to focus on the creation of Arbus's art and the development of her artistic life when there just isn't enough information, and the book suffers. Once Arbus separates from Eh. The first third of the book is much stronger than the last two-thirds. Bosworth points out that Arbus was quite secretive about her daily life, and definitely liked to create her art A L O N E, so there is very little to say about, well, her and her art, because... no one really knows about it. Unfortunately, Bosworth tries to focus on the creation of Arbus's art and the development of her artistic life when there just isn't enough information, and the book suffers. Once Arbus separates from her husband, he disappears from the book almost entirely, which seems quite abrupt, considering the intensely close relationship they had, personally and professionally, and they clearly had a relationship up until the end of her life, so his absence feels odd. She lives with her daughters, but neither one--nor her relationship with them, which would be interesting, since Bosworth puts so much emphasis on Arbus's strained family relationships--is really discussed at all, except to mention twice that the younger daughter had "a weight problem", which seemed a bizarre thing to focus on. The last two-thirds of the book just feels like a list of places and people Arbus photographed, and some of her money troubles, which seemed never-ending, but it just feels all surface, to me. (Arbus's estate is almost as tightly controlled as Sylvia Plath's, which means none of her photographs are "allowed" to be reproduced in this biography, either, so Bosworth talks A. LOT. about artwork one has to go to some lengths to look up elsewhere if one wants to know what Bosworth is going on about for pages at a time.) In the end, either Arbus didn't know, or wasn't able to articulate, her self or how her art "worked", or, she wasn't telling, so the book almost makes it seem if Arbus was a kind of accidental artist, and that's kind of sad. Earlier: I'm excited to read this, as I just finished watching "Fur". I was actually disappointed that the filmmakers, even in fantasy, made the development of her artistic self dependent on a MAN as the catalyst and guide. Blerf.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Velvetink

    A lot of Arbus's life in this that was new to me. It seemed though to be rather weighty at the beginning about her younger life in terms of facts and information compared to her later years which seemed to me to be glossed over through lack of information & in many instances mini bio's of people Arbus was associated with were used as filler. While Bosworth says at the start the family wouldn't talk to her for the book, there are a lot of quotes from various family members. I was stunned to r A lot of Arbus's life in this that was new to me. It seemed though to be rather weighty at the beginning about her younger life in terms of facts and information compared to her later years which seemed to me to be glossed over through lack of information & in many instances mini bio's of people Arbus was associated with were used as filler. While Bosworth says at the start the family wouldn't talk to her for the book, there are a lot of quotes from various family members. I was stunned to read that Arbus's work extends into thousands & thousands of prints and most have not been published or seen and for whatever reason the family is holding onto those works. Bosworth mentions Diane's depression throughout and her subsequent suicide, but does not go far enough to any sort of resolution. There's a lot not said, or perhaps not known, although some portion of blame is assigned to her illness of hepatitis & toxic effects of medications and it would be interesting to hear other views.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    ok full of 'i knew diane qutoes from the nanny of her cousin who she hardly met, the obscure aunt who only saw her once, jerry her dads ex sales ladys (they were in the grament trade) ex husband who saw diane in the park once in her pram' ok i made those up but you get the picture. this book is padded out with quotes from 'hangers on' who, it would appear, the author couldn't possibly have spoken to because many where long gone when this was written and the back of the book is full to the brim o ok full of 'i knew diane qutoes from the nanny of her cousin who she hardly met, the obscure aunt who only saw her once, jerry her dads ex sales ladys (they were in the grament trade) ex husband who saw diane in the park once in her pram' ok i made those up but you get the picture. this book is padded out with quotes from 'hangers on' who, it would appear, the author couldn't possibly have spoken to because many where long gone when this was written and the back of the book is full to the brim of the auuthors sources, which identifies her as 'a brilliant researcher' but not someone who has an empathy with her subject. i wanted a book about diane, about her as a person and yes i know she was ver yprivate BUT that is were the true writer can work their magic...my search continues

  11. 4 out of 5

    K

    This book was filled with great ideas from a great artist about what photography is, was, can be, would be, to be. Although I find in many reviews people complain that it wasn't intamite enough, I find that a biography doesn't have to divulge every secret in order to be great. There was a secret behind each of her photos as there was behind her life and should the book as well. A great read with refrences to other artists, such as Mary and Robert Frank, that were worth checking out if you weren' This book was filled with great ideas from a great artist about what photography is, was, can be, would be, to be. Although I find in many reviews people complain that it wasn't intamite enough, I find that a biography doesn't have to divulge every secret in order to be great. There was a secret behind each of her photos as there was behind her life and should the book as well. A great read with refrences to other artists, such as Mary and Robert Frank, that were worth checking out if you weren't already familiar with their work. Slow at parts and she repeated facts a few times, but she worked well with the information she had to create a strong and enthralling biography.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    An interesting and troublesome book for me. Arbus's development as a photographer was more gripping than the stories of her career. Her family retains the rights to her work and, according to author Bosworth, refused to grant permission to reproduce any of her photographs; the book suffers for it. Additionally, some research into depression might not be amiss for a biography of someone who committed suicide. If Bosworth did any such research, it doesn't come through. Perhaps she didn't want her An interesting and troublesome book for me. Arbus's development as a photographer was more gripping than the stories of her career. Her family retains the rights to her work and, according to author Bosworth, refused to grant permission to reproduce any of her photographs; the book suffers for it. Additionally, some research into depression might not be amiss for a biography of someone who committed suicide. If Bosworth did any such research, it doesn't come through. Perhaps she didn't want her work to be seen through that particular lens, but the result is a book more insightful into its own author and the thrall with which she beheld her subject than into Arbus herself.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Her first encounter with the camera that became her signature motif began when she met Allan Arbus, a young photographer several years older than her who did photo shoots for her parents store, with whom she fell in love, later married, divorced but clung to for the rest of her life nonetheless. It was Allan who learned the technical aspect of photography in the military that in turn taught Diane how to process film but it was she who had the eye for photo composition. Her contemporaries includi Her first encounter with the camera that became her signature motif began when she met Allan Arbus, a young photographer several years older than her who did photo shoots for her parents store, with whom she fell in love, later married, divorced but clung to for the rest of her life nonetheless. It was Allan who learned the technical aspect of photography in the military that in turn taught Diane how to process film but it was she who had the eye for photo composition. Her contemporaries including Richard Avedon, Gary Winogrand, Bruce Davidson made huge names for themselves, much of the time doing commercial or fashion photography even becoming very wealthy in the process like Avedon but when you look at a Diane Arbus photo you know that you’re seeing the product of pure genius, of someone that is seeing the subject in a way that you never could have imagined. For Arbus, it appears as if through the camera was a shield to hide behind but as her skills developed it became that and more – a way for her to brave her way into otherwise unimaginable worlds. Taking photos was almost becoming the other, stepping literally and figuratively into the lives of her subjects through the medium of the camera to break through the prison that her family bound her up in as a child. Long suffering from depression which ran in her mother’s family, during her later years her behavior became increasingly erratic, often dangerous particularly for a woman in the 1950/60’s. Though not stated, I couldn’t help but think she was exhibiting schizophrenic traits as self-destructiveness was similar to the kind of thing the famous bassist Jaco Pastorius (Weather Report) engaged in prior to his untimely death. Arbus died at the age of 48 in 1971 leaving a huge body of work behind and an extraordinary promise unfulfilled. Many of her friends say that she had a childlike way about her that belied her inner complexities and drive. It was this innocence that underlies her ongoing fascination with her subjects – including the famous photos of the angry boy with the toy hand grenade, the twin girls dressed alike or the wealthy couple in their backyard of their Long Island estate. During her lifetime few if any of these pictures made it into a collection and she continued to make a meager living doing a fashion shoot or a piece for the New Yorker to cover the rent. When asked why she rejected the offers to publish her work she would say because no one understands these subjects like I do. Maybe so, you’ll have to look at her work to find out for yourself.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martha

    In June, I visited the photography collection of the Museum of Modern Art where I saw several portraits by Diane Arbus, whose work has fascinated me since I first encountered it in a college photography class. Later that week, I learned that Nicole Kidman was set to star in “Fur,” an adaptation of Patricia Bosworth’s Arbus biography. Then the August issue of Vanity Fair included an article about the film’s production history. I finally took these cosmic hints and brought Bosworth’s book on vacat In June, I visited the photography collection of the Museum of Modern Art where I saw several portraits by Diane Arbus, whose work has fascinated me since I first encountered it in a college photography class. Later that week, I learned that Nicole Kidman was set to star in “Fur,” an adaptation of Patricia Bosworth’s Arbus biography. Then the August issue of Vanity Fair included an article about the film’s production history. I finally took these cosmic hints and brought Bosworth’s book on vacation at the Jersey Shore, where the beach was populated by an assortment of oddballs that Arbus would have loved. Arbus made her mark in the 1960’s with her photos of people on the fringes of society — nudists, cross-dressers, circus performers. According to Bosworth, Arbus’ work “drastically altered our sense of what is permissable in photography.” Her photographs were weird, creepy, eccentric, and captivating; apparently so was she. Bosworth traces the roots of Arbus’ work (and her 1971 suicide) to her affluent Manhattan childhood. Accompanied by her French governess on a stroll from her Park Avenue apartment to Central Park, Arbus became fascinated by a Hooverville shantytown. Her interest in unconventional lives never waned. Bosworth’s coverage of Arbus’ adult years offers an interesting glimpse into the New York art scene of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Arbus crossed paths with many of the major photographers of her day, including Walker Evans, Richard Avedon, Weegee, Robert Franks, and Garry Winogrand. Young readers unfamiliar with these artists and other luminaries of the 20th century won’t get much help from Bosworth, who makes frequent unexplained references to people and places. Also frustrating, is the absence of Arbus images in the book; her estate refused to cooperate with Bosworth. So if you’re planning to read this detailed account of Arbus’ life, be sure to check out a collection of her photographs. To see samples of her work, visit the Metropolitan Museum online.

  15. 5 out of 5

    marie monroe

    Once you see her images and know her time you have to know who she is. She was a woman who said she didn't become a photographer until late in life (38!) because a woman spends the first half of her life getting married and having children. She was right. But,she changed art. Not an easy thing to do. Changing art means that whoever comes next to make art can start where that change-agent left off. Changing art rockets us to creative hyperspace and this woman is probably one of the most important p Once you see her images and know her time you have to know who she is. She was a woman who said she didn't become a photographer until late in life (38!) because a woman spends the first half of her life getting married and having children. She was right. But,she changed art. Not an easy thing to do. Changing art means that whoever comes next to make art can start where that change-agent left off. Changing art rockets us to creative hyperspace and this woman is probably one of the most important photographers ever. Time will tell and has been shouting about her ever since she began her second career, but I want to say more. I want to say throw in the painters and sculptors, too, and she still rises to the top. The people she confronted in her work were confronted gently and harshly, but with the greatest compassion. I mean, the images are psychologically brash, deeply disturbing and her subjects allowed her intrusion because she was kind and loved them for who they were. They are people we would never have met, but suspected (perhaps) that they are out there. They are us turned inside out, upside down, in our nightmares and deepest anguish. She went head on into them as she went into her own deep and disturbing places, the places we all have. Her difference, I think, is that she was incredibly brave.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Hoyle

    Interesting account of the life and career of a tortured photography artist whose photos document her descent into madness and suicide. Arbus was attracted to the margins of human experience, then fell off the edge.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lenore Riegel

    Just finishing this and I am enthralled. Wonderfully researched, beautifully written - a picture of Diane Arbus as fascinating as any of her photographs. Looking forward to reading more Patricia Bosworth. By the way, I downloaded the eBook from Open Road Media.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    Interesting for historical value. Sad as a human story. Just okay as a book: author was rather too enamored of her subject in my humble opinion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cait

    Photographer- Biography. interesting details from Arbus' life but the writing is not very engaging.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    never so shallow a book about so complex a personality...total trash

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I loved the story of how her family came to this country and succeeded in creating a dept. store. They lived in some famous buildings in NYC and she had a relatively good life as a child. Parental involvement does not play much of a role and there is little known about her relationship with her mother. She and her brother were very close until she married in her late teens. She is always searching for something, which is very true of this period 1950-1960's NYC. Once she and her husband not longe I loved the story of how her family came to this country and succeeded in creating a dept. store. They lived in some famous buildings in NYC and she had a relatively good life as a child. Parental involvement does not play much of a role and there is little known about her relationship with her mother. She and her brother were very close until she married in her late teens. She is always searching for something, which is very true of this period 1950-1960's NYC. Once she and her husband not longer have the symbiotic relationship she was comfortable in, her turmoil begins. She tries to find herself in various ways, always through photography. She is willing to try anything and is really daring for a woman, even in the 1960's. It is apparent she is emotionally distraught and suffers depression. It is unfortunate that at that time, depression wasn't in the forefront of the news as it is today. She felt very alone and her life, even though seeming successful, did not bring her any sense of joy or fulfillment.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena

    Diane (Dee-Ann) Arbus was an American photographer (with a Jewish-Polish ancestry) from NYC. Her most famous photograph is of the TWINS which inspired Stanley Kubricks' "twin characters" in The Shining! He was originally a photographer which is why he was exposed (pun!) to her photographs in the first place. A surprising photograph she took was of the anchor Anderson Cooper as a baby! If you didn't know he comes from a wealthy family "The Vanderbilts" and so his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, commission Diane (Dee-Ann) Arbus was an American photographer (with a Jewish-Polish ancestry) from NYC. Her most famous photograph is of the TWINS which inspired Stanley Kubricks' "twin characters" in The Shining! He was originally a photographer which is why he was exposed (pun!) to her photographs in the first place. A surprising photograph she took was of the anchor Anderson Cooper as a baby! If you didn't know he comes from a wealthy family "The Vanderbilts" and so his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, commissioned Arbus to photograph her baby. Arbus grew up on Central Park West in a well to do family being cared for by nannies. Her father made a fortune selling furs in the 1920's. Her life story is about climbing down the social ladder. Interestingly she hated being associated as a "rich kid." She died young (at 48 in 1971) because she committed suicide at a time in her life when she felt she could no longer achieve the photographs she'd envisioned, suffered depression, was divorced and her kids had grown up and left home.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Noland

    Thoughtful, detailed, extremely poignant and loving biography of one of my favorite artists. I have always been fascinated and moved by her photography, but I was surprised to find Arbus so relatable, in terms of her struggle between the power of her inner world and outside reality. It was really heartbreaking to realize that this inability to negotiate with her demons is what ultimately caused her death. I really appreciated the author's insights into her childhood, her relationships, and adult Thoughtful, detailed, extremely poignant and loving biography of one of my favorite artists. I have always been fascinated and moved by her photography, but I was surprised to find Arbus so relatable, in terms of her struggle between the power of her inner world and outside reality. It was really heartbreaking to realize that this inability to negotiate with her demons is what ultimately caused her death. I really appreciated the author's insights into her childhood, her relationships, and adult conceptions of the world. I feel I will now use this context to view her portraiture in a more thorough way, not just to be shocked by the perversity of the images. It speaks to the time period she lived in that Arbus was devastated to be seen as merely a photographer of "freaks." This was a cheapening and pigeon-holing of what she was trying to accomplish as an artist, and I think her work would've been viewed very differently today -- for better or worse, who's to say.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Regina Stevens

    A fascinating roller coaster ride of obsessive personal relationships, and continual self discovery. Patricia Bosworth neatly outlines the influences of Diane’s early years and ties to her family as her life story unfolds. The New York art world is a key player in the story including the artists and contemporaries who were socially and artistically relevant to her life and work. I found it useful to have a search engine handy to help illustrate the many historical references and images. I was m A fascinating roller coaster ride of obsessive personal relationships, and continual self discovery. Patricia Bosworth neatly outlines the influences of Diane’s early years and ties to her family as her life story unfolds. The New York art world is a key player in the story including the artists and contemporaries who were socially and artistically relevant to her life and work. I found it useful to have a search engine handy to help illustrate the many historical references and images. I was moved by the scope of Diane Arbus' ambition and talent, her overwhelming drive to delve deep into her soul to find her voice and then to continue to live with those demons once they were released. Sadly Diane struggled up until the end with her depressions, raw emotions toward public opinion, and wavering self confidence.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Diane Arbus was a great photographer. She had the ability to take photos that looked into the souls of her subjects. Her subjects were often on the fringe of society and were referred to as freaks, but that never caused her to turn away. If you are unfamiliar with her works or her life this book gives you good insight. If you are already a fan of hers you will find this book lacking on information concerning her family life. Although it is very readable it lacks information.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sima

    Highly recommend. Beautiful person, lots to learn about her and how she sees the world

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    A lifelessly written account of a true capital L life.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dominik Scigalski

    Exceptional inspiration for photography enthusiasts and humanists.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marta Jochym

    Honest, powerful and moving.

  30. 5 out of 5

    K.m.

    Diane Arbus is so undeniably intriguing and difficult to pin down, that I was able to forgive this biography some of its issues. I liked the honesty of the biographer, Patricia Bosworth, in presenting most information about Arbus' life as sourced from various friends, family members and acquaintances. This allows you to read this narrative as a patchwork of stories from those close to the artist, rather than as god-given 'facts'. The beginning is juicy with information on Arbus' early life, insi Diane Arbus is so undeniably intriguing and difficult to pin down, that I was able to forgive this biography some of its issues. I liked the honesty of the biographer, Patricia Bosworth, in presenting most information about Arbus' life as sourced from various friends, family members and acquaintances. This allows you to read this narrative as a patchwork of stories from those close to the artist, rather than as god-given 'facts'. The beginning is juicy with information on Arbus' early life, insight into her character and upbringing, hinting at things of importance in her artistic development. It was an easy read more for the content than style. The last third of the book is spread very thin, consisting mostly of Arbus' meeting some well-known media, or art personality of the 1950s-70s, and moving on to the next assignment for whatever magazine. This was a slog to get through, as it focused on cataloguing her professional development, with very little information into her state of mind. This seems a result of a plain lack of information on this period in her life, rather than laziness on the author's part. I wasn't offended by the lack of examples of Arbus' photographs, this is about the artist's life not a photography book. I was, however, bewildered that one of Bosworth's sources had the pseudonym 'Cheech McKensie'. Not sure if that makes this book that much better or worse.

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