04 October 2013

Photographers Who Inspire Me:
Diane Arbus


Diane Arbus (born 1923 in New York, New York )
(died 1971 in New York, New York)
Diane Arbus is considered one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century. She is best remembered for her distinct style and passionate dedication to her unique subjects -- marginalized groups and subcultures -- who were generally overlooked by mainstream society. Her work has remained, to this day, highly controversial. Although some criticise her for being a voyeur, others see her as a philanthropist who shed light on the lives of people who most would turn a blind eye to. Personally, I see her as an extremely courageous, creative genius. 

She began her career as a fashion photographer, but later turned to freelance work. She studied under renowned photographer Lisette Model, from whom she learnt her most valuable lessons -- to have confidence in her talent and not to let fear stand in the way of her artistic integrity. Throughout her career, Arbus viewed each photography project as an adventure and viewed the resulting photographs themselves as a sort of recompense for the adventure. Sadly, after battling years of depression, she took her own life in 1971, at the age of 48.

It is my own fear of approaching strangers that attracted me to Diane Arbus's work. Although an extrovert by nature, I am hesitant to take photographs of people I do not know. This is an apprehension I wish to overcome and there are myriad lessons to be learnt from Diane Arbus in this area. I was astonished to learn that she often feared her subjects until she got to know them -- a fact that has deeply inspired me to face my own fears. 

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park. New York City. 1962.
© Estate of Diane Arbus
"If I were just curious, it would be very hard to
say to someone, "I want to come to your house
and have you talk to me and tell me the story of
your life." I mean people are going to say,
"You're crazy." Plus they're going to keep
mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of
license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that
much attention and that's a reasonable kind of
attention to be paid."

Hermaphrodite and a dog in a carnival trailer. Maryland. 1970.
© Estate of Diane Arbus

"I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't
like to arrange things. If I stand in front of
something, instead of arranging it, I arrange
myself."

Identical twins. Roselle, N.J. 1967.
© Estate of Diane Arbus

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