Wildly controversial in her lifetime, Diane Arbus was only fully recognized for her contributions to the art of photography after her death. Arbus began work as a fashion photographer with her husband, her first commission taking pictures of the family fur store. But dissatisfied with purely commercial work, Arbus began making forays into the world of art photography, seeking out unconventional subjects such as Coney Island freak shows and gay bars, launching her solo career with her first photo essay for Esquire, “The Vertical Journey.” While Arbus was widely published in some of the best magazines in Great Britain and America, her controversial images also evoked powerful negative reactions: the curator of a show at MOMA that included Arbus’s work came in early every morning to clean spit off her pictures. While her fame rose within the art world, her career faltered as more mainstream magazines began hesitating to ask her to photograph subjects for their stories. Suffering from depression and feeling overwhelmed by both internal and external expectations of her work, Arbus committed suicide in 1971, but her work has continued to influence photographers for decades.
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How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Diane Arbus." (Viewed on September 16, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/arbus-diane>.