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Mimicking the Masters: Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus was a well-known American documentary photographer. Her photos gained popularity due to the subject matter. Learn some tips from this female master photographer on this edition of Mimicking the Masters.

Photo via Photobucket

Diane Arbus photographs are unique because of the subjects she chooses. She was known for taking photos of nudists, giants, transvestites, circus performers, and the mentally disabled. Because of this, her photos stirred controversy among critics and she received mixed reactions for her work.

The beauty of Diane Arbus’ photos has a lot to do with her subjects. Most of her subjects are people that she encountered in her own hometown. Mimicking her work doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go out and look for the same subjects that she photographed. Instead, choose a subject that works for you. Take a walk around your town to see if you can capture something unique that no one else has seen. If you decide to take photos of sensitive subjects, don’t forget to ask permission first.

Diane Arbus’ photos seem to focus more on the subject of the photo rather than the composition of the photo. She gives importance to revealing the subject’s persona and capturing them candidly, as opposed to “fixing” them and having them pose. Find an instance wherein you can penetrate your subject through the lens of your camera. You just might end up with photos that are full of emotion and truth.

Diane Arbus used a flash or a frontal lighting to make sure that she captured her subjects in any lighting condition, even in broad daylight. The flash was also handy when her subjects were concealed behind shadows or with their backs against the light. This enabled her to take a clear photo of the face even in those conditions. The use of flash during daylight added a unique feel to her photos.

Read more articles on the Mimicking the Masters series. Sources for this article include DP Tips and Suite 101.

written by jeanmendoza


  1. amberrosalie


    I recommend everyone who read this article to watch the movie "Fur" It's about Diane Arbus and her photographs. It's a beautiful movie. Believe me.
    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. mafiosa


    Amazing photos. Thanks @amberrosalie for the movie recommendation. I will definitely watch it.

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. amberrosalie


    No problem! Let me know if you liked it!
    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. v3ml


    @amberrosalie very good recomendation :)

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  5. amberrosalie


    No problem :)
    almost 3 years ago · report as spam

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Русский, Português, Français, Deutsch & 中文(繁體版).