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Princess Diane

Penny Boumelha

21 February 1985
Diane ArbusA Biography 
by Patricia Bosworth.
Heinemann, 367 pp., £14.95, January 1985, 0 434 08150 7
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Inside the Onion 
by Howard Nemerov.
Chicago, 63 pp., £8.45, April 1984, 0 226 57244 7
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... to have learned much of her method from the unnamed author of Sartre’s boyhood reading. She is prodigal with knowing looks, though reading the book did little to make me feel like a divinity. ‘DianeArbus’s unsettling photographs of freaks and eccentrics were already being heralded in the art world before she killed herself in 1971’: so begins this strikingly predestinarian biography ...

Buy birthday present, go to morgue

Colm Tóibín: Diane Arbus

2 March 2017
Diane ArbusPortrait of a Photographer 
by Arthur Lubow.
Cape, 734 pp., £35, October 2016, 978 0 224 09770 3
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Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus​ and Howard Nemerov 
by Alexander Nemerov.
Fraenkel Gallery, 106 pp., $30, March 2015, 978 1 881337 41 6
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... by the anxieties it stirred up. It seemed that the world wanted Freaks, longed for it and was fascinated by it, and wasn’t ready for it, recoiled from it and deplored it, all for the same reasons. DianeArbus loved Freaks. She watched it ‘innumerable times’, Arthur Lubow writes in his biography, ‘often introducing people she knew to its pleasures’. ‘She said she had to see it every time it ...

Thwarted Closeness

Adam Phillips: Diane Arbus

26 January 2006
... If it is too often said about DianeArbus that she photographs freaks, it does at least suggest that we know what normal people are like, what people look like when they are not odd. It is reassuring to be reminded that we know a freak when ...

At the Jeu de Paume

Brian Dillon: Peter Hujar

9 December 2019
... posed her in an empty studio, wrapped in a hulking, dark coat: she looks like a solid black mass from which face, hands and legs emerge. The impression of solidity was partly a matter of form. Like DianeArbus and Robert Mapplethorpe, Hujar created square, black and white images, typically using a Rolleiflex or the more sophisticated Hasselblad, plus tripod. The geometry of the square encourages a ...

At Victoria Miro

Peter Campbell: William Eggleston

25 February 2010
... conventions of composition and subject matter already had a standing when Eggleston’s MoMA exhibition took place. In 1967 Szarkowski had curated an exhibition that showed work by Lee Friedlander, DianeArbus and Garry Winogrand, all of whom severely undermined existing notions of what photographic art could and should be in much the way Eggleston does. Yet when you imagine their pictures in colour ...

Diary

Mary Hawthorne: Remembering Joseph Mitchell

1 August 1996
... made a living from her 13½-inch beard: ‘She despises pity and avoids looking into the eyes of the people in her audiences; like most freaks, she has cultivated a blank, unseeing stare.’ After DianeArbus had read McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, the book in which these pieces appeared, she called Mitchell up and asked him about his subjects. She had become interested in freaks and wanted to ...

Gender Distress

Elaine Showalter

9 May 1996
In the Cut 
by Susanna Moore.
Picador, 180 pp., £12.99, April 1996, 0 330 34452 8
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The End of Alice 
by A.M. Homes.
Scribner, 271 pp., $22, March 1996, 0 684 81528 1
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... black comedy about a woman who tracks down a psychotic and taunts him into killing her. In Zombie (1995) Joyce Carol Oates writes from the point of view of a Jeffrey Dahmer-like monster. Like a DianeArbus with her camera as a shield, these women use fiction to enter the subterranean spaces of the modern city, the physical and sexual spaces forbidden to women. Frannie has rough sex with NYPD ...

In Transit

Geoff Dyer: Garry Winogrand

20 June 2013
... He’s hurriedly signing but as he does so one of the boys has his thick glasses knocked from his face. Winogrand captures the exact moment of the glasses coming off. Lee Friedlander – who, with DianeArbus, was featured alongside Winogrand in the breakthrough New Documents show at MoMA in 1967 – described him as ‘a bull of a man and the world his china shop’. So this baseball player becomes ...

Baudelairean

Mary Hawthorne: The Luck of Walker Evans

5 February 2004
Walker Evans 
by James Mellow.
Perseus, 654 pp., £15.99, February 2002, 1 903985 13 7
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... the proceeds of which Frank used to make his own masterwork, The Americans, which not only self-consciously built on Evans’s book, but in some ways, which Evans surely recognised, surpassed it. DianeArbus, another photographer he championed, also rose to prominence. Joseph Mitchell once told me that Evans, at a certain point, ‘couldn’t see things anymore. DianeArbus came along, and she ...
21 March 1985
Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture 
by Paul Cummings, Jorn Merkert and Claire Stoullig.
Norton, 308 pp., £35, August 1984, 0 393 01840 7
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Abstract Expressionist Painting in America 
by William Seitz.
Harvard, 490 pp., £59.95, February 1984, 0 674 00215 6
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About Rothko 
by Dore Ashton.
Oxford, 225 pp., £15, August 1984, 0 19 503348 5
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The Art of the City: Views and Versions of New York 
by Peter Conrad.
Oxford, 329 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 19 503408 2
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... and best-publicised attempts to make photographs of poor people which were not voyeuristic and invasive. He purposely used a plate camera and a tripod, and made no secret of what he was doing. And DianeArbus (another New York photographer whom Conrad does not mention) had a relationship with her subjects which may have involved pretences, but certainly not the pretence that she was not really ...

Loving Dracula

Michael Wood

25 February 1993
Bram Stoker’s Dracula 
directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
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Suckers: Bleeding London Dry 
by Anne Billson.
Pan, 315 pp., £4.99, January 1993, 0 330 32806 9
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... Renfield, Jonathan’s predecessor as the Count’s English representative. Devouring beetles and assaulting his keepers, he is photographed from the top through a lens which makes him look like a DianeArbus freak, and is also allowed to overact copiously, imitating Brando imitating Olivier. This is great fun if your sense of irony is in good health; probably tiresome if you’re not in the mood ...

Seriously Uncool

Jenny Diski: Susan Sontag

22 March 2007
At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches 
edited by Paolo Dilonardo and Anne Jump, preface by David Rieff.
Hamish Hamilton, 235 pp., £18.99, April 2007, 978 0 241 14371 1
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A Photographer’s Life 1990-2005 
by Annie Leibovitz.
Cape, 480 pp., £60, October 2006, 0 224 08063 6
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... out that some things are more important than others, perhaps the simpler option is to leave out the less important ones. In On Photography Sontag questioned, in relation to the strange staring of DianeArbus and the sentimentality of the famous 1960s exhibition The Family of Man, what we have the right to observe and the value of our observations: ‘The knowledge gained through still photographs ...

Hoogah-Boogah

James Wolcott: Rick Moody

19 September 2002
The Black Veil 
by Rick Moody.
Faber, 323 pp., £16.99, August 2002, 0 571 20056 7
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... spotlight and allows him to redirect his gaze outwards, gain a modest perspective (since most of the other patients are worse off than he is). A Fourth of July outing for the patients is a potential DianeArbus moment shot in cheerful Kodak colour. ‘A Frisbee bonked one depressed guy on the head. He paid no attention.’ One of the inmates is a Dominican woman named Conchita, who’s married to an ...

All That Gab

James Wolcott: The Upsides of Sontag’s Downsides

24 October 2019
Sontag: Her Life 
by Benjamin Moser.
Allen Lane, 832 pp., £30, September 2019, 978 0 241 00348 0
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... magnetised the camera her entire career, a watchful muse and Medusa starer in portraits by Peter Hujar (whose photographs line the inside cover of Moser’s book like a wall of publicity stills), DianeArbus, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, and, later, her partner Annie Leibovitz. Sontag’s post-cancer skunk-stripe hair made her instantly spottable. For those hitting the right places in ...

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