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Seminal Snapper

July 14, 2016
Diane Arbus: In The Beginning

Diane Arbus’ photos don’t make for easy viewing, but once seen, they cannot be unseen. Known for her intense, often disturbing black-and-white images of unusual or marginalised people – from twins and triplets to transgender individuals, dwarfs and giants – the American photographer captured startling, iconic portraits.

Part of The Met Breuer’s inaugural season, ‘Diane Arbus: In The Beginning’ showcases one of the most influential and provocative artists of the C.20th, featuring more than 100 photos drawn from the first seven years of her career. It focuses on the early period from 1956 to 1962, when Arbus (1923-71) honed her signature bold, apparently artless style, documenting not just chance encounters and passersby, but actively engaging her subjects in their portraits. Unlike big-name US snappers like Walker Evans and Garry Winogrand, who believed the photographer should passively record the moment, Arbus’s work became more personal, direct and collaborative.

A lifelong New Yorker, Arbus shot in classic locations from Times Square and Fifth Avenue to the Lower East Side and beachy Coney Island, relying mainly on a 35mm camera. However, she chose to photograph atypical characters – children, eccentrics, female impersonators and circus performers – saying, ‘I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.’

Nearly half of the photos Arbus printed during her short life hail from this rich seven-year epoch, with many never before exhibited or published. A must-see.

12 Jul–27 Nov, 2016.

Diane Arbus / The Met Breuer / 945 Madison Ave / +1 212 731 1675 / 10am-5.30pm Tue-Wed & Sat-Sun, until 9pm Thu-Fri / metmuseum.org

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