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Diane Arbus: A Biography [Kindle Edition]

Patricia Bosworth
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Bosworth’s remarkable look at the life of Diane Arbus, one of the most acclaimed and provocative photographers of her time
Diane Arbus became famous for her intimate and unconventional portraits of twins, dwarfs, sideshow performers, eccentrics, and everyday “freaks.” Condemned by some for voyeurism, praised by others for compassion, she was nonetheless a transformative figure in twentieth-century photography and hailed by all for her undeniable genius. Her life was cut short when she committed suicide in 1971 at the peak of her career.
In the first complete biography of Arbus, author Patricia Bosworth traces the arc of Arbus’s remarkable life: her sheltered upper-class childhood and passionate, all-consuming marriage to Allan Arbus; her roles as wife and devoted mother; and her evolution from fashion photographer to critically acclaimed artist—one who forever altered the boundaries of photography.

Editorial Reviews Review

Opportunities for sensationalism abound in a book about Arbus, who already had a history of severe depressions and a crumbling marriage by the time she began to take the controversial, technically innovative pictures of dwarfs, nudists and drag queens that won her a reputation as "a photographer of freaks." Bosworth balances the lurid details -- rumors that Arbus had sex with her subjects, that she photographed her own suicide in 1971 -- with a nuanced appraisal of an artist whose images captured the uneasy mood of the 1960s by expressing her personal obsessions.

From Publishers Weekly

Examines the life of the famous photographer, which culminated in suicide in 1971, in terms of her famous images of the grotesque and aberrant.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1265 KB
  • Print Length: 293 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0394504046
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (June 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0083JBZE0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,240 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius Causes Loneliness December 12, 2002
If you study the following two books you likely will realize that Diane Arbus was a genius: "An Aperture Monograph" and "Diane Arbus: Magazine Work." If you've ever tried to be a good photographer, even as a total amateur, you will appreciate her genius even more.
Bravo to Patricia Bosworth for interviewing so many people who are gone now! The following people who knew Diane or who studied her work while she was alive made comments to Bosworth shortly before *they* died: Andy Warhol, Lisette Model, Garry Winogrand, John Putnam (art director of Mad magazine for many years), Bernard Malamud (a friend of Diane's brother Howard Nemerov) and Irving Mansfield (immortalized in an Arbus print as an insecure, greedy man letting his sleazebag wife Jacqueline Susann sit on his bare thighs).
Ever heard of Gail Sheehy, author of the 1970s classic "Passages" that all women pursuing careers in social work and medicine used to read? She's still alive, and you can read in Ms. Bosworth's biography about her encounters with Diane before she (Gail) became famous for "Passages."
Bosworth presents eyewitness testimony about Diane's clinical depression along with medical records. But Bosworth wisely declines to speculate on why the depression persisted for so long or why Diane refused to take lithium shortly after it hit the market in 1970. (Come to think of it, Bosworth omitted that "lithium" detail from the book but divulged it in an interview she did with Popular Photography magazine for their December 1984 issue.)
I'm glad Bosworth annoyed people by presenting evidence but no insight. Here's the only insight she could have provided, and it would have annoyed readers even more.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Diane Arbus was the child of immigrant parents, and grew up exploring her potential set against the backdrop of the 50's, 60's and 70's. Her husband, actor Allan Arbus was also an artist looking for his potential. Hers in photography, his in acting.
If there is a down side to the book, it is that it is pretty well factual, with very good and close sources, but the book starts to fade when the author explores Diane's later years. Was this woman, born into a family where depression had been discovered in her mother really depressed because of a failed marriage? The author opines to the affirmative. Or was it something more? The book only gives us a glimpse of Allan's troubled reaction to her depression.
I believe a more indepth study into the soul of this woman would have shown dramatically the tragedy of her death. Set in the time period, our society was not cognizant or nor able to recognize signals in mental depression. There are many examples in the book of how Diane was attempting to overcome the demons.
All in all, I found the book interesting and well written.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book about a woman photographer I have read, November 28, 1997
By A Customer
Patrica Bosworth's biography of Diane Arbus is an exellent book.It gives a clear and comprehensive story of Arbus's life,from her comfortable background as a daughter of a Jewish New York merchant family through her early adulthood as the wife and photographic partner of her husband Allan,through the time after her marriage when she was one of the important people on the NY cultural scene,to her disturbing "adventures" and early, tragic death at her own hand. She could not have realized how her influence would be felt so many years after her death,and this book is the only one that does justice to the life and effect of Diane Arbus. Buy it! Read it!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must For Serious Photographers April 23, 1998
The author presents a well balanced accounting of the somewhat tragic life of this important, innovative photographer. Diane Arbus had significant talent, and it is amazing that she continued to produce outstanding work when burdened with a serious chronic depression. The author also impresses us with Arbus's special ability to coax almost anybody to pose for her. If she had lacked this skill, many of her portraits would never have come into being. This is a must read for those interested in the history of photography.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I can't say I really liked this book. In the early stages of the biography I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Diane's childhood, but the author does too much fawning over Diane and repeatedly talks about how gifted she was. Yes, I think we all appreciate that fact, now let's move on and get to the core of who she was. ...Except I don't necessarily feel that this book ever truly did that. There were some interesting insights, but I constantly felt far too removed from the real Diane. Each piece of information I felt I could really sink my teeth into was buried between pages and pages of repetitive or useless (to me, anyway) information.

Throughout the book I felt Bosworth also spent too much time detailing a large number of Diane's friends and acquaintances. Family, close friends and mentors are certainly key in any biography, but the deeper I got into the book, the more I found myself skimming over chunks of text, searching for what (if much of anything) these relationships MEANT to her life rather than tedious details about a person she only met a couple of times.

I was also disappointed in the lack of reflection on Arbus's death at the end of the book. I had expected many more thoughts on that, or maybe even a bit of discussion on her legacy, and how her work is now received. Instead, the book ends with her death.

In short: If you want to know more about Arbus, read the book, but be prepared to skim.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved this book...very researched and informative...a wonderful look into an amazing woman and her life.
Published 2 days ago by C. Stehman
4.0 out of 5 stars Patricia Bosworth, gives a vary clear and in depth ...
Patricia Bosworth, gives a vary clear and in depth look into the live of a complex and vary talented photographer, Diane Arbus.
Published 1 month ago by Donald G. Stanton
3.0 out of 5 stars Looking at Diane Arbus through the opposite end of a camera lense was...
It's probably me but I just couldn't seem to get through it. What I did read was well written and during the summer I will probably pick it up again and give it another shot.
Published 3 months ago by Sheryl feldman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Arrived as expected. Many thanks.
Published 7 months ago by Susan Cleaves
3.0 out of 5 stars Room for a different Arbus Bio
I was interested in reading this book, but I feel that Bosworth missed the boat. First off, there is a lot of "psychologizing" by Bosworth that often seems forced and out... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Diane Arbus: A Biography
Wow, what a read! Had no clue who Diane Arbus was, but enjoy biographies and I was not disappointed with this one.
Published 14 months ago by humynbrd
4.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating biography
Apparently there's still a lot of mystery to Diane Arbus' work and life. Bosworth focuses on facts and what a lot of different people remember about Arbus. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Joel Austin
4.0 out of 5 stars Snapshot
Lacking co operation from family Patricia Bosworth still achieved in giving an interesting portrait of both Arbus and possibly the life experiences that led her to develop the... Read more
Published 20 months ago by dale remlee
5.0 out of 5 stars good book!
Gives a great overview of her life and work plus it describes the interconnections among the important photogaphers of the era.
Published 21 months ago by Allan I. Teger
4.0 out of 5 stars Very dynamic story of complex and troubled person
Much detail provided in Bosworth's telling of difficult events and situations in this artist's life. Read more
Published 23 months ago by D. Martin
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