Artists in 60 Seconds: Diane Arbus

Movement, Style, School or Type of Art:


Date and Place of Birth:

March 14, 1923, New York City


Diane Arbus was a seminal figure in documentary photography. Her subjects were often members of society's fringe - an odd, discomforting and new topic for most viewers in the 1950s and 60s. She violated all previously implied "polite distance" rules between herself and those she shot, getting as close as she felt was warranted.

She also had an unsurpassed ability to, somehow, inject a certain amount of psychology into any given picture, as if compelling the viewer to look long and deeply.

Arbus is best known today for the "freak" photos that were so sensational 40-odd years ago, and for becoming something of a cult figure by dying young. It is difficult to locate more than a handful of Arbus' works on the Internet, due to her closely guarded estate. For extended viewing, one's best bet is either purchasing or borrowing one of the image-intensive books on the artist authorized by the Arbus Estate.

Important Works:

  • Screaming Woman with Blood on her Hands, ca. 1958
  • Child with Toy Hand Grenade, 1962
  • Retired Man and his Wife at Home in a Nudist Camp One Morning, NJ, 1963
  • Twins, 1967
  • Their numbers were picked out of a hat, 1970

Date and Place of Death:

July 26, 1971, New York City (suicide)

How to Pronounce "Diane Arbus":

dee·ann ar·biss

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