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Arbus, Diane

Diane Arbus was an American photographer whose work captured 1950s and 1960s America and transformed the art of photography.

She was born in New York City and found most of her subjects there. Arbus worked to normalize marginalized groups and highlight the importance of proper representation of all people. She worked with a wide range of subjects including members of the LGBTQ+ community, strippers, carnival performers, nudists, dwarves, children, mothers, couples, elderly people, and middle-class families. She photographed her subjects in familiar settings: their homes, on the street, in the workplace, in the park. “She is noted for expanding notions of acceptable subject matter and violates canons of the appropriate distance between photographer and subject. By befriending, not objectifying her subjects, she was able to capture in her work a rare psychological intensity”.

Diane Arbus first began taking pictures in the early 1940s. While working in partnership with her husband, Allan Arbus, as a stylist collaborating in their fashion photography business, she continued to take pictures on her own. She studied photography with Berenice Abbott in the 1940s and with Alexey Brodovitch in the mid-1950s. It was at Lisette Model's photographic workshop around 1956, however, where Arbus found inspiration and began seriously pursuing the work for which she has come to be known. She was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 for her project on ‘American Rites, Manners, and Customs.

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