Assignment 2: Initial Thoughts – 150 MC

So as well as having to do assignment 1 this term, we have also been given another task to complete. Assignment 2 is not a practical task, but rather is a presentation on a given artist.
However, we were told that our talk shouldn’t just be a biography, but instead we should aim to focus on specific pieces of work or even single images. But at that the same time, we would need to also think as to how these pictures link to the other photographer’s practices in the same group.

So the artist I was given was Diane Arbus. She was placed in the same group as: Sally Mann, Elinor Carrucci, larry Clark, Nan Goldin and Nicholas Nixon. And the themes for this group of photographers were Intimacy, Power and Exploitation.

So here is some of the initial research I have done into Diane…

  • Born Diane Nemerov on March 14, 1923, in New York City, Diane Arbus was one of the most distinctive photographers of the 20th century, known for her eerie portraits and off-beat subjects. (2)
  • Diane Arbus started out in advertising and fashion photography. In the late 1950s, she began to focus on her own photography. (2)
  • Her raw, unusual images of the people she saw while living in New York created a unique and interesting portrayal of the city. (2)
  • During her wanderings around New York City, Arbus began to pursue taking photographs of people she found. She visited seedy hotels, public parks, a morgue and other various locales. These unusual images had a raw quality, and several of them found their way into the July 1960 issue of Esquire magazine. These photographs proved to be a spring board for future work. (2)
  • In the early 1960s, Arbus began producing compelling portraits of people on the outskirts of society, including clowns, exotic dancers, circus performers, and transvestites; she received widespread recognition for these works. Arbus also became known for her eerie photographs of children, intimate portraits of famous figures, and urban scenes.(1)
  • She is  known for her arresting black and white photographs of children, artists, and famous figures, as well as her portraits of those living on the margins of conventional society. (2)
  • By the mid-1960s, Diane Arbus had become a well-established photographer, participating in shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, among other places. She was known for going to great lengths to get the shots she wanted. (2)
  • While professionally continuing to thrive in the late 1960s, Arbus had some personal challenges. Her marriage to Allan Arbus ended in 1969, and she later struggled with depression. She committed suicide in her New York City apartment on July 26, 1971. (2)

However what is interesting to note is that with the subjects Diane photographed, they weren’t just forgotten at all. Rather, she became good friends with them all for the rest of her life. So if we look at the themes Power and Exploitation quickly, yes we can see that Diane held some sort of power over them as the photographer. But she didn’t abuse it though to exploit any of the people which is quite interesting.



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