July 1 ~  Understanding and Misunderstanding Diane Arbus: Revelations

"Love involves a peculiar unfathomable combination of understanding and misunderstanding." ~ Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

Born Diane Nemerov to wealthy clothiers in New York, innovative photographer Diane Arbus (1923-1971) learned her craft from her husband and studied with documentary legend Berenice Abbott.

"Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies," observed Arbus who spent eleven years as a fashion photographer before turning to her unique black-and-white portraits. 

"I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them," she said.

In 1958 her mentor, Lisette Model, encouraged Arbus to celebrate "the forbidden" with her camera. Arbus photographed ordinary people, frequenting circuses, asylums, and sideshows. "A photograph is a secret about a secret," she said. "The more it tells you the less you know."

Innovative, offbeat, and controversial, her work won two Guggenheim fellowships. She was called "The Wizard of Odds." Another critic said, "she caters to the peeping Tom in all of us."

Arbus explained her unique vision, her inspiration and the reason for photographing souls on the edge of society: "Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."

More PHOTOGRAPHY Quotations

Diane Arbus Love is unfathomable.