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Diane Arbus Revelations Hardcover – September 30, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Muscle men, midgets, socialites, circus performers and asylum inmates: in the 1950s and '60s, photographer Diane Arbus (1923-1971) cast her strong eye on them all, capturing them as no one else could. Her documentary-style photos of society's margin-walkers were objective and reverential, while she often portrayed so-called normal people looking far more freakish than the freaks. Her powerful work was well-received in its day. Arbus received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 and was included in a major show at MOMA in 1967. But her work entered the realm of near-myth after her 1971 suicide.

Posthumously cast as everything from patron saint of the underdog to a crass exploiter of the mentally challenged, Arbus has curiously never had a large retrospective until the show Revelations was organized by Arbus' family and SF MOMA. The accompanying catalogue is an oversized, sumptuous, beautifully printed tome. It includes all of the artist's iconic photographs as well as many that have never been publicly exhibited, including many pages of contact sheets, journal entries, and family snapshots. This work is so strong, it's mind-blowing. The giant in his apartment with his parents looks absolutely regal, his parents sad and confused. Are those crazy people always so happy? And what to make of this moment of extreme tenderness between a dominatrix and her client? This is a book worth hours of your time. --Mike McGonigal

From the Inside Flap

Diane Arbus redefined the concerns and the range of the art she practiced. Her bold subject matter and photographic approach have established her preeminence in the world of the visual arts. Her gift for rendering strange those things we consider most familiar, and uncovering the familiar within the exotic, enlarges our understanding of ourselves.

Diane Arbus Revelations affords the first opportunity to explore the origins, scope, and aspirations of what is a wholly original force in photography. Arbus's frank treatment of her subjects and her faith in the intrinsic power of the medium have produced a body of work that is often shocking in its purity, in its steadfast celebration of things as they are. Presenting many of her lesser-known or previously unpublished photographs in the context of the iconic images reveals a subtle yet persistent view of the world.

The book reproduces two hundred full-page duotones of Diane Arbus photographs spanning her entire career, many of them never before seen. It also includes an essay, "The Question of Belief," by Sandra S. Phillips, senior curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and "In the Darkroom," a discussion of Arbus's printing techniques by Neil Selkirk, the only person authorized to print her photographs since her death. A 104-page Chronology by Elisabeth Sussman, guest curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art show, and Doon Arbus, the artist's eldest daughter, illustrated by more than three hundred additional images and composed mainly of previously unpublished excerpts from the artist's letters, notebooks, and other writings, amounts to a kind of autobiography. An Afterword by Doon Arbus precedes biographical entries on the photographer's friends and colleagues by Jeff L. Rosenheim, associate curator of photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These texts help illuminate the meaning of Diane Arbus's controversial and astonishing vision.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition, Later Printing edition (September 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375506209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375506208
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 1.6 x 12.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

84 of 85 people found the following review helpful By D. Johnson on October 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the catalog for a show that opened this week at SFMOMA. It is also a document of considerable authority and very little of the cult shrine that is part of the show. There is no doubt that this is a thorough assessment of Arbus' place in the history of her medium. The first chapter of of the written material is scholarly and completely devoid of the overstatement usually plastered on Diane Arbus. Instead, the author relates her work to that of her various teachers and influences, Lisette Model, Gary Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, August Sander, and many others. There are numerous references to and from her notebooks as well as the notes of others but the writing is neither superfluous nor voyeuristic. It is art history at its best.
The selection of her photographs is comprehensive and well organized as you would expect from her estate which owns them all. No doubt the Fraenkel Gallery near SFMOMA had a lot to do with the quality of the show and book. Read it before you attend the show and you will learn a lot even if you've never heard of her.
Coupled with the detailed chronology of her life, the images give a clear picture of a character which has been obscured by mythology and rumor for 30 years. I am not a fan of Diane Arbus (and certainly not a detractor) but I gained a lot of respect for her as an artist as I read her notes and quotes about her own work.
If you are looking for a biography of a brave young woman artist in the mid-twentieth century, this one is good. It is thorough and not editorialized with adjulation. The only gratuitious facts that I would have left out are the cold details of her death in the coroner's reports at the end of the book. Yet I get the impression this is the way she would have wanted it. This is the book she would have written. Absent some equal scholarship to the contrary, this is the truth about Diane Arbus.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Ian Muldoon on November 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I own two Arbus monographs and have lived with them for over 20 years. Many of those works are reproduced in this volume. There is a lot of talk about "the human condition" and I suppose all artists in one way or another wrestle with the notion. Arbus has always meant to me someone who seemed to reveal who we are beneath the fashion, the roles, the sex, the culture. I used one of her images as a means to illuminate a poster for a Sam Shepard play called Icarus' Mother - it was of a very young New York boy holding a toy hand grenade in a threatening way during play in Central Park - once seen never forgotten.
Nor will I forget her self portrait, naked pregnant, in this latest volume. So much. So much. This is the volume Arbus lovers have been waiting for. Printed in Germany, beautifully bound, positively packed with images, diary entries, extracts from letters, comment. A bargain.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
DIANE ARBUS: REVELATIONS is one of the most beautiful monographs of an artist I have ever seen or read. This over-sized, beautifully bound, highest quality paper, extraordinarily fine reproductions of photogravure, and sensitively designed and written catalogue for the touring museum exhibition of Diane Arbus Photographs is simply magnificent and well worth the rather steep price. But a state-of-the-art monograph would be of little consequence were it not about one of the most controversial and phenomenally gifted photographers of the last century. Arbus had an affinity for capturing people she encountered because they produced a source of wonder in her. Her eyes were attracted to the edges of normal appearance and anatomy where she captured luminously tender photographs of developmentally challenged fellow human beings. There are countless images of children and adults who have survived a life of 'non-normalcy' and she framed them in her camera's eye with no sense of the voyeur, but instead with a great sense of humanism. Here are portraits of giants with their parents, patients from mental institutions, carnival folk, transvestites, anatomic wonders, as well as simple twins, people she found fascinating, populated places that struck her imagination.Read more ›
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Goodman on October 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The first book I ever saw that made me realize photographs were more than family snapshots was Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph. For years I've wondered about the woman who took those photographs and how she worked...from getting her subjects to pose for her, to how she developed and processed her film, and also about her life. Revelations provides many answers and more. Kudos to DA's daughter Doon for releasing this material in a beautiful volume that has already provided hours of enlightenment, and it just arrived today. The printing is immaculate and the text is amazing with lots of passages from DA's journals, notebooks, school papers, letters and postcards. This book may well become the definitive work on her, as it provides much more insight to her life and work then the unauthorized biography from the 1980's by Bosworth. This is a perfect book, in my opinion.
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