Diane Arbus: Family Albums

Diane Arbus: Family Albums

by Anthony W. Lee, John Pultz
     
 

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) is renowned for her provocative and unsettling portraits of modern Americans. This book presents a significant body of previously unpublished pictures by Arbus and proposes a radically new way to understand her goals, strategies, and overall work. Diane Arbus: Family Albums examines unknown contact sheets from several of Arbus's portrait… See more details below

Overview

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) is renowned for her provocative and unsettling portraits of modern Americans. This book presents a significant body of previously unpublished pictures by Arbus and proposes a radically new way to understand her goals, strategies, and overall work. Diane Arbus: Family Albums examines unknown contact sheets from several of Arbus's portrait sessions, including more than three hundred photographs she took of a New York family one weekend in 1969. Anthony W. Lee and John Pultz put to the test Arbus's claim that she was developing a "family album." They present other images Arbus shot for Esquire magazine (including pictures of the families of Ricky Nelson, Jayne Mansfield, and Ogden Reid) and discuss her interest in photographic groupings of both traditional and alternative families. Challenging common interpretations of Arbus, the authors reveal a photographer far more savvy with the camera, more aware of photography as an artistic and commercial practice, and more sensitive to the social and cultural tensions of the 1960s than has been acknowledged before.

Author Biography: Anthony W. Lee is associate professor of art history and chair of American studies at Mount Holyoke College. John Pultz is associate professor in the Kress Foundation Department of Art History and curator of photography at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas.

This book accompanies an exhibition at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (September 2 to December 7, 2004); Grey Gallery, New York University (January 13 to March 27, 2004); Portland Museum of Art, Maine (June 5 to September 6, 2004); the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas (October 16, 2004 to January 16, 2005); and other venues to be announced. Published in association with the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Arbus is best known for her photographs of segments of American society considered "marginal": circus freaks, nudists, mentally challenged adults, homeless people. However, in the late '60s, after her successful show at the Museum of Modern Art, Arbus (who committed suicide in 1971) wrote to a friend that she was working on "a book of photographs with the working title Family Album." With this in mind, the authors have grouped mostly unseen work of Arbus's around the concept of family, matching it with work by along with photographs by Walker Evans, August Sander and annonymous early photographers that reflects her themes and techniques. Aside from 20 or so uneasy full-page portraits of famous people and their children (Tokyo Rose and Mae West photographed in 1965; Ozzie and Harriet Nelson followed by Ricky with wife and kids in 1971), the most compelling inclusion is an extensive series of commissioned photographs, 322 shots in total, that Arbus took of actor, theater owner and producer Konrad Matthaei and his family during a holiday gathering. The authors print the contact sheets in their original form and provide details on the shoot. In contract to the image of Arbus as "a predator zealously, even uncontrollably, out for prey," the more natural, unposed shots of the Matthaei family seem genuinely warm. But the stiffer, more disturbing shots of the Matthaei daughters, in which they were separated from the rest of the family and "asked to stand uncomfortably still, arms held tight, jaws locked, knees knocked, eyes level, lips taut" are particularly and familiarly focused, giving valuable insight into what Arbus's final family album would have been, had she completed it. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Arbus (1923-71) said that her approach to photography was like gathering a butterfly collection, in that she aimed to depict objectively the distinctiveness of her unusual subjects. Known best for her pictures of human aberrance, she is again the subject of a new wave of popular appreciation. Revelations accompanies a major retrospective and is the most comprehensive study of her life and work yet to appear. An outstanding accomplishment in a photography book, it's a title that in its density and design successfully encapsulates the work of an eclectic artist who at times defies interpretation. Articulate textual matter weaves together thorough coverage of Arbus's images. In a very readable introductory chapter, curator Phillips unravels Arbus's philosophy and places her within an aesthetic continuum containing forerunners such as August Sander and Lisette Model. An image-rich 100-page chronology, compiled by curator Elizabeth Sussman and the photographer's daughter, Doon Arbus, will stand as a definitive account for generations to come. Topping it off is a section of detailed biographies of 55 dramatis personae in Arbus's life and an essay on the technical aspects of printing her photos by her longtime darkroom collaborator Neil Selkirk. The focus of Family Albums is a large, previously unknown group of photos of one wealthy New York family, here shown alongside better-known portraits. Coalescing around an Arbus claim in a 1968 letter about starting a book to be entitled Family Album, this book by art history professor Lee (Mount Holyoke) and Pultz (Univ. of Kansas) takes a new perspective that will help expand her reputation beyond that of an illuminator of social marginalia. The newly discovered photos are presented separately as contact sheets, and to see them alongside her finished prints demonstrates well the amount of labor Arbus devoted to creating a more arresting final product. Revelations is a near-essential purchase for most collections, and libraries seeking the most thorough coverage of this pivotal artist should consider buying both titles.-Douglas Smith, Oakland P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300101461
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
09/28/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
168
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.65(d)

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