Diane Arbus

03rd September 2019

The following quote and two photographs are taken from the article, ‘Diane Arbus: In the Beginning review – a genius who made every picture a story,’ which is in relation to an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London in early 2019. The article can be found on line at the website the guardian.com and I have found it to be very informative.

…More than provoking mere curiosity, Arbus teases our imaginations. Looking at her images we invent backstories and narratives we can never be sure of. She makes us stop and look, just as she did. The Santa Claus on the street, his beard awry, stock-still and somehow tragic as a woman passes by. The woman pausing on the sidewalk, the old couple on the park bench. What went through Arbus’s mind about their lives? What went through theirs as they paused for her? We can’t know. Everyone has a story to tell but we don’t hear it, though she makes us know it is there…

Adrian Searle Guardian Critic
 Life spills out of them … Boy stepping off the curb, NYC 1957–58, by Diane Arbus. Photograph: The Estate of Diane Arbus
More subtle and strange than we imagine … Lady on a bus, NYC 1957 by Diane Arbus. Photograph: The Estate of Diane Arbus

Arbus’s portraits reminds me of Andy Warhols Poloroid portraits. I have an excellent book which I shall review and add a link to below.  While she was best known for her intimate black-and-white portraits, Warhol was known for his colour polaroids. Their subject matter was very similar also, Arbus often photographed people on the fringes of society, including the mentally ill, transgender people, and circus performers and Warhol documented his daily life which included self-portraits, sex themes and well known celebrities of his era. The difference however is that Arbus’s work is far more dramatic and you often feel, as a viewer of the images, that you are there in person and invading someones privacy. In some shots I feel a little intimidated myself, as though I am not welcome. An example is the photograph above of the lady on the bus which makes me feel I am intruding into her person space and not welcome.

I absolutely love many of her portraits and wish I had the strength and audacity to invade peoples spaces as Arbus has but again, although I like this style of photography at the present with my anxiety being so high, I can not do it.


This blog reviews the Warhol’s Polaroid portrait exhibition in London, 2019. It shows some of his portraits and the link to the website ‘My Modern met,’ can be found here.

Link to book review: Andy Warhol Poloroids 1958-1987

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