Diane Arbus by Arthur Lubow
Portrait of a Photographer

68%

6 Critic Reviews

All this is delivered in a formulaic prose that is generally as compelling as a textbook. This reader longed, on the one hand, for more passion and, on the other, for more depth...
-NY Times

Synopsis

The definitive biography of the beguiling Diane Arbus, one of the most influential and important photographers of the twentieth century, a brilliant and absorbing exposition that links the extraordinary arc of her life to her iconic photographs.

Diane Arbus brings to life the full story of one of the greatest American artists of the twentieth century, a visionary who revolutionized photography and altered the course of contemporary art with her striking, now iconic images. Arbus comes startlingly to life on these pages, a strong-minded child of unnerving originality who grew into a formidable artist and forged an intimacy with her subjects that has inspired generations of artists. Arresting, unsettling, and poignant, her photographs stick in our minds. Why did these people fascinate her? And what was it about her that captivated them?

It is impossible to understand the transfixing power of Arbus’s photographs without understanding her life story. Arthur Lubow draws on exclusive interviews with Arbus’s friends, lovers, and colleagues, on previously unknown letters, and on his own profound critical understanding of photography, to explore Arbus’s unique perspective. He deftly traces Arbus’s development from a wealthy, sexually precocious free spirit into first a successful New York fashion photographer, and then a singular artist who coaxed hidden truths from her subjects. Lubow reveals that Arbus’s profound need not only to see her subjects but to be seen by them drove her to forge unusually close bonds with these people, helping her discover the fantasies, pain, and heroism within each of them.

Diane Arbus is the definitive biography of this unique, hugely influential artist. This magnificently absorbing, sensitive treatment of a singular personality brushes aside the clichés that have long surrounded Arbus and her work to capture a brilliant portrait of this seminal artist whose work has immeasurably shaped art and modern culture.

Lubow’s Diane Arbus finally does justice to Arbus, and brings to life the story and art of one of the greatest American artists in history.

Diane Arbus includes a 16-page black-and-white photo insert.

 

About Arthur Lubow

See more books from this Author
Arthur Lubow has been a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, a staff writer at The New Yorker and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. He received a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and a James Beard Award, and is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities.
 
Published June 7, 2016 by Ecco. 752 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Diane Arbus
All: 6 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 20 2016

Although a critical success, she doubted her talents; Lubow chronicles the deepening depressions that led to her suicide. Despite limitations on research, Lubow sharply captures Arbus’ restlessness, pain, and artistic vision.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 19 2016

Lubow is forced to rely on wordy descriptions and exhaustive citations. But fans of her work will have no trouble calling up the iconographic portraits from their personal memory banks. And as Arbus frequently acknowledged, “The subject... is always more important than the picture.”

Read Full Review of Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Ph... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Lyle Rexer on Jul 01 2016

All this is delivered in a formulaic prose that is generally as compelling as a textbook. This reader longed, on the one hand, for more passion and, on the other, for more depth...

Read Full Review of Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Ph... | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Jane Haile on Jul 30 2016

Lubow has drawn on many sources—interviews with Arbus’s friends, family, colleagues and lovers and previously unknown letters between them—and produces an entirely convincing portrait of an entirely unconventional and brilliant individual.

Read Full Review of Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Ph... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Jun 02 2016

But he’s written a tepid and bloodless book, one that demonstrates the defects and virtues of consummate professionalism. It’s all here, but the details remain flat on the page, as if pressed on with Fun-Tak. Or perhaps it’s not all here.

Read Full Review of Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Ph... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Sean O'Hagan on Oct 25 2016

Lubow digs deeper, but without shedding much more light than either of his predecessors on her art or the deep discontentments that fuelled it.

Read Full Review of Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Ph... | See more reviews from Guardian

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