Diane Arbus

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New York City, New York
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Diane Arbus was an American photographer who was known for her strange black-and-white photos. She changed the way black-and-white photography was done by taking pictures of strange people and street performers. She moved close to the people she wanted to take pictures of so she could get them to pose with the exact look she wanted. She looked for the psychological and personal truths of life, and her pictures have a deep effect on those who see them. She came from a wealthy family and was raised as a “darling,” but she was looking for something different in life. She was drawn to unusual people with weird or complex ways of thinking or acting, as well as people from the lower levels of society. Even in the fashion and children’s photography worlds, she didn’t do things the way most people do. She worked as a professional photographer for magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, and The Sunday Times Magazine. She stayed friendly with her husband even after they broke up, but she found it hard to deal with being alone and having health problems, which led her to kill herself at the age of 48. Like her personality, her private life stayed interesting, and Nicole Kidman played her in the movie “Fur,” which was based on her life.

Childhood and Adolescence

Diane Arbus was born Diane Nemerov in a wealthy Jewish household in New York City. Her father, David Nemerov, and mother, Gertrude, owned “Russek’s,” a department store.

She was the second of the Nemerovs’ three children. Her older brother Howard Nemerov went on to become the United States Poet Laureate, while her younger sister Renee went on to become a well-known designer and sculptor.

Diane and her siblings attended Manhattan’s Ethical Culture School and the Fieldston School. Her family was unscathed by the Great Depression of the 1930s because they were wealthy.

Diane Arbus’s Career

Her husband, Allan, was her first photography instructor. She began her career as a photographer in 1946, and she and her husband worked in the advertisement division of her father’s store.

She later formed her own commercial photography business with her husband and began taking assignments for clothes designs. Allan photographed while Diane took care of the model’s costume and cosmetics.
Their unique style of photography drew attention, and they became well-known as fashion photographers. Famous fashion magazines like “Harper’s Bazaar” and “Vogue” gave them tasks.

Diane was dissatisfied with her secondary role and desired to pursue a career in photography. She left her husband’s company in 1957 and enrolled in Alexey Brodovitch’s workshop.
She began attending photography studies at Lisette Model’s New School in 1958, where she learned the basics of professional photography. Model’s impact can be seen in her later creations.

The Esquire magazine entrusted her with a photo assignment on New York nightlife after being impressed by her images. In 1960, her work “The Vertical Journey” was published in the journal.
In the meantime, she met Marvin Israel, her second mentor, who introduced her to powerful individuals. She became the art director of Harper’s Bazaar in 1961 and began publishing her own photographs.

John Szarkowski, who later became the curator of photography at MOMA, impacted her work in 1962. As a result, she switched from a 35mm camera to a customized square-shaped camera.

She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1963 for her work on “American rites, manners, and customs.” She got her hands dirty photographing a nudist camp for the first time as part of the project.

She taught photography at Parsons School of Design, Cooper Union, and the Rhode Island School of Design in the late 1960s. She also published her photographs in magazines such as the Sunday Times Magazine, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar at the same time.

She and her husband, Allan, were formally divorced in 1969. Their friendship survived their divorce, but Diane, who was sad and suffering from hepatitis, committed suicide in her apartment two years later.

Her Major Projects

The image “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” drew a lot of attention. In 2005, a duplicate of the photograph was sold for $408,000 at auction.

In 1972, her photograph “Identical Twins” was selected as the cover image for the photography book “Diane Arbus.” The book became one of the best-selling photographic books of all time.

Achievements and Awards

Her non-commercial photographs of a couple on a park bench, a young Republican, and identical twin girls changed photography forever. In 1963, she was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships, which she accepted and renewed three years later.
She received the Robert Levitt Award for excellent performance from the American Society of Magazine Photographers in 1970.

Personal History and Legacy

She met and fell in love with Allan Arbus, a nineteen-year-old photographer when she was thirteen years old. Allan was employed by her family’s store’s advertising department.

Despite her parents’ initial opposition, Diane continued to meet Allan in secret. Allan and Diane were married in 1941 with the help of a rabbi, and the elders approved of the union.

The couple had two children, Doon and Amy, both of whom were interested in fashion photography. Doon went on to become a writer, and Amy went on to become a fashion photographer.
They divorced in 1969 after living apart for several years. Diane committed suicide in her New York City apartment after becoming sad due to illness and loneliness.

Her monograph, “Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph,” was released in 1972, edited and designed by her friend and painter Marvin Israel and daughter Doon Arbus. This book was translated into five languages.

Estimated Net worth

Diane is one of the wealthiest and most well-known Photographers. Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider all say that Diane Arbus has a net worth of about $1 million.


This famous photographer’s husband was also an actor in the 1950s. In the television series M.A.S.H., he played Sidney Freedman, a psychiatrist.
Susan Sontag accused this twentieth-century New York photographer of nihilism because of his photographs of “freaks.” Susan made the accusation in an article in the New York Review of Books.