* 1923 New York
† 1971 New York
The American artist Diane Arbus counts among the most influential and most controversial photographers of the 20th century.
Diane Nemerov was born into a Jewish family of Polish origin in New York in 1923, in 1941 she married the photographer Allan Arbus, and henceforth bore his name. As photographer she was largely self-taught. Diane Arbus, who shot her first pictures with a "Speed Graphic" in 1946, received training from Berenice Abbott for a short time only. Together with her husband Allan Arbus, she soon created first fashion shots for her grandfather's fur business, shortly after she became a fashion photographer for magazines such as "Vogue", "Glamor" and "Seventeen"; additionally she made advertising photography.
From the late 1950s on Diane Arbus became increasingly independent from commercial fashion photography and worked as a freelance photographer. In addition to portraits - for example, of James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Marcel Duchamp, she made shots of marginal groups, such as transvestites, disabled people or persons of short stature, in a dramatic and austere style. These works, which she published in magazines like "Harper 's Bazaar", "Esquire" and "Nova", soon were controversially discussed. Her breech of taboo found numerous supporters who celebrated Diane Arbus, but there were also critics like the writer Susan Sontag who accused Diane Arbus' photographs of having an "anti-humanist message". In any case, the polarizing oeuvre of Diane Arbus was extremely influential and influenced the development of photography in many ways.
In the second half of the 1960s Diane Arbus took on various teaching posts and participated in the groundbreaking exhibition "New Documents" at the New York Museum of Modern Art. As a consequence of years of depression she committed suicide in New York in 1971.
After her death, the New York Museum of Modern Art showed a comprehensive Diane Arbus retrospective, who should become an icon of post-war photography - not least for her posthumous participation at the Biennial in 1972. An excellent exhibition was shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2005/2006, at the Museum Folkwang in Essen, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Fondacion la Caixa in Barcelona and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the accompanying extensive publication "Diane Arbus Revelations" was published by Random House.