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Diane Arbus: Family Albums Paperback – October 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101461
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 9.5 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,099,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Powerful... This album is pure, extracurricular fun... An object of desire. -- Peter Plagens, Art + Auction

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2007
Format: Paperback
Two associate professors of art history want to climb the academic career ladder. My oh my, what are they to do? Wait! Zounds! Eureka! Someone has found some contact sheets from a private shooting assignment done by - gasp! - Diane Arbus.

We have the photos! We have a hall! Let's mount an exhibition! By Jove, let's write an essay! Two essays because there are two academics struggling for advancement.

And so it is done. An exhibition. A book to commemorate the exhibition.

And two of the most bizarre, sophmoric, empty-headed art history essays you can imagine. Sophistry of the first order as these two try to make academic hay on a dead photographer.

The photos, most by Arbus, occupy only about half the book. And they are all to be seen elsewhere in more congenial settings. ("Diane Arbus: Revelations," for example.)

The essays are just plain ridiculous. Stereotypical academic writing. Diane Arbus was a good photographer, skilled at capturing otherwise ordinary people in unexpected or odd poses. Had she missed the critical instant in most cases, the photo she is famous for would have been missed. The same can be said of Henri Carier-Bresson in a way, but Arbus was more prone to setting her subjects up, while Cartier-Bresson photographed the moment. Arbus also made heavy use of the unflattering aspects of newly introduced portable electronic flashes to add a harsh edge to her photos which also made her subjects appear unnatural.

But these two academics, Anthony W. Lee and John Pultz, roll out all the holies of left-wing academia. The "youth rebellion" of the 60s. Gay liberation. Emancipated women. You name the left-wing cause and it gets at least one mention in their respective essays.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By West Murray on March 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of Diane's work so I am always happy to see anything I can of hers. This was an interesting look into her.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Angie2 on February 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
I read Jerry Saperstein's commentary of this book and I do agree with him, so please read Jerry's comments, along with mine, to get a better feel for this book called: "DIANE ARBUS:FAMILY ALBUMS".

By reading Jerry's commentary I can tell that Jerry, the reviewer, is probably a professional photographer ,which I am not. So Jerry was able to extrapulate more than I did from reading this book. That is why I stated that Jerry's (the commentator's) review can shed light on this book probably better than I can (though I will try my best for you all).

As a non-photography expert, I viewed the photos as a typical reader might. If you are a novice photo-taker, like me, then these points might help, prior to buying this book:

1) I am slightly familiar with Diane Arbus and I even saw the movie "FUR" recently (as I said: I'm a non-photography expert) . But as most of us movie buffs know, the movie "FUR" is far from telling the real Diane Arbus story! Therefore, after seeing the movie, I wanted to own a book with some of Diane's actual photo-reprints,in order to get a better feel for the deceased photographer described in the movie "FUR".
As most of you that saw the movie "FUR" noticed, the movie did not show hardly any photos taken by Nicole Kidman, who played Diane Arbus. That frustrated me, and therefore I set out to find a book with some of her actual photographs. (MOVIE SPOILER: In the movie "FUR", the "furry man" was a fictional character & not a real-life person that Diane ever fell in love with in her real life. Also, in the movie "FUR" , Nicole Kidman {ie: Diane Arbus} presents an ALBUM at the next to last scene. Well, that "album" was also not to be confused with this book's "Family Albums").
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