Jeff L. Rosenheim: diane arbus: in the beginning (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016)

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) began taking photographs in the 1940s while working with her husband, Allan Arbus, as a stylist collaborating in their fashion photography business. She studied photography with Berenice Abbott in the 1940s and with Alexey Brodovitch in the mid-1950s. While studying with Lisette Model in the mid-1950s, Arbus began the work for which she has come to be known, photographing unusual individuals, often those living on the fringes of mainstream society. Her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960. During the following decade, she worked for Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, The Sunday Times Magazine and other publications. In 1962, Arbus abandoned the 35mm camera she had been working with and started using a square format (2 1/4-inch twin-lens reflex) camera. The uncropped frame and straightforward composition of her portraits became a distinctive feature of her work. Among her best known later works are the Untitled series, made at residences for people with mental disabilities between 1969 and 1971. Diane Arbus committed suicide in 1971.

This catalogue accompanied The Metropolitan Museum of Art Department of Photographs exhibition at The Met Breuer ( July 12–November 27, 2016). It showcases over 100 photographs of the artist’s first seven years of work (1956 to 1962), more than half of which are published here for the first time.

Diane Arbus in Central Park with her Mamiya camera in 1967. Photo: Tod Papageorge