Diane Arbus was “afraid…that she would be known simply as the photographer of freaks.” The phrase has been used to describe her, but it is for this claim that I have come to admire her.
Diane Arbus was an American photographer and writer known for taking pictures of deviant and marginal people: transgenders, dwarfs, giants, circus performers, and the like. She committed suicide in 1972, but has nonetheless left a legacy that will forever be cherished by generation after generation of photographers. Unlike many others behind the lens who preferred to capture the beautiful and the elite, Arbus was not fond of photographing celebrities or goddess-like beings. She preferred shooting portraits of those who were not physically attractive to the conventional human eye.
For someone who was borne to a well-to-do family that owned a Fifth Avenue department store in Manhattan and was shielded from the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, Arbus could have used her family’s connections to propel herself to a prolific career photographing high-profile subjects and clientele. Instead she did completely the opposite. She preferred the ”freaks” over the glitterati.
And this why I admire her, for her ability to see beyond the imperfections of the “freaks” she photographed, to find something valuable in the image of her unconventional subjects.
Watch the documentary and be inspired.
“Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot….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.”
Do we have a Diane Arbus amongst us? Share links to your work in the comments section below.
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