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