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Diane Arbus: Photographing The Freaks Essay

2158 words - 9 pages

"Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child" (Lubow). However, unfortunate to some and lucky to others, a camera was always in the hands of Diane Arbus, even when she was stark nude. What she brought to the photography world was something no one had ever seen before and it appalled many people. Shocking images stare back at the viewer from her photographs; a man’s face entirely covered in hair, faces of identical twins so similar you can’t tell them apart, a transvestite’s face with large curlers in his hair, and a face completely covered in tattoos. These are only a few of subjects Diane Arbus photographed during her career. The following will discuss Diane’s childhood and upbringing, how she got her start in the photography world, her very interesting choice of subjects, the relationships and sense of community she developed with these “freaks”, and her severe battle with depression that led to her suicide at the age of 48. (Bosworth)
Diane Arbus was born on March 14, 1923 in New York City. She was the second child to Gertrude Russeks Nemerov and David Nemerov, both of Jewish decent. Her parents met when David started working for Gertrude’s successful family business that sold furs on Fifth Avenue. After they married, David took on the family business, Russeks, and expanded it to clothing and fur, making it twice the success it already was. When Diane was born, her parents were already very wealthy and living in an upscale part of New York City. For the majority of her early years, she and her older brother Howard were raised by nannies, which they became very attached to. In the book, Diane Arbus: A Biography, by Patricia Bosworth, Diane remembers her father as being a very busy man who didn’t pay much mind to his children and her mother as a woman who lived a life of leisure and high class fashion. In their house, everything was “based on approval, not love.” She also mentioned throughout her life of how sheltered she and her brother were as children. Though Diane and Howard were three years apart, they were quite close to each other, even into adult years. (Bosworth)
As Diane grew older, she was described as “luminous, with large green eyes, a delicate, exotic face and a slim body. She was nubile and almost every published photo of her has a sexual charge to it. All kinds of people were captivated by her, and she was captivated by all kinds of people” (Oppenheimer). When Diane was 14, she met Allan Arbus, then 18, and they immediately fell in love. They soon became inseparable, much to Diane’s parents dismay. Her parents forbade her to see him, but instead she just kept their relationship a secret. She waned to be with Allan, and only Allan, and their love grew stronger over the years. She appeared obsessed with him, always mentioning his name in conversations and sneaking off to see him whenever she got the chance. While trying dresses on one day at Russeks, Diane is even remembered by one of...

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