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Diane Arbus: Monograph (Aperture Monograph) Paperback – March 30, 1997

4.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph was originally published in 1972, one year after the artist's death, in conjunction with a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art. Edited and designed by Arbus's daughter, Doon, and her friend and colleague, painter Marvin Israel, the monograph contains eighty of her most masterful photos. The images in this newly published edition, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the collection's original publication, were printed from new three-hundred-line-screen duotone film, allowing for startlingly clear reproduction. The impact of the collection is heightened by the introduction, which contains excerpts of audio tapes in which Arbus discusses her experiences as a photographer and her feelings about the often bizarre nature of her subjects. Diane Arbus's work has indelibly impacted modern visual sensibilities, evidenced by the intensely personal moments captured in this powerful group of photographs.


"Diane Arbus was no a theorist but an artist. Her concern was not to buttress philosophical positions but to make pictures. She loved photography for the miracles it performs each day by accident, and respected it for the precise intentional tool that it could be, given talent, intelligence, dedication and discipline. Her pictures are concerned with private rather than social realities, with psychological rather than visual coherence, with the prototypical and mythic rather than the topical and temporal. Her real subject is no less than the unique interior lives of those she photographed."--John Szarkowski, 1972, Director, Department of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art

"I have never seen pictured like them before, and I am sure I will never see their equal again. They are the product of something beyond the camera, the result of a long, complex and intensely human process. No one can go into the street tomorrow and take a Diane Arbus photograph. That would be merely adjusting a lens and pressing a button. What made her pictures great was everything that happened before she pressed the button."--Douglas Davis, Newsweek, 1984

"Diane Arbus is one of our legends, her monograph a pivotal classic that changed the direction of photography in America. She captures the complexity and the art in reality. The quality that defines her work and separates it from almost all other photography is her ability to empathize on a level far beyond language."--Nan Goldin, Bookforum, 1995

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Product Details

  • Series: Aperture Monograph
  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: Aperture; 25 Anniversary edition (March 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0893816949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0893816940
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 9.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter Shelley on July 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
This collection of 81 black and white photographs by Diane Arbus was edited and designed by her daughter, Doon and friend Marvin Israel and published in 1972 after her suicide the previous year. The photographs are preceeded by text of tape recordings of classes that the photographer gave the year she died, as well as excerpts from interviews and some of her own writings on photography. The text illuminates Arbus' concerns about her art and her subjects. Although she did do studies of objects, such as Disneyland, a hotel lobby, and a Xmas tree, Arbus was more interested in people, in particular the kind of people she had never seen before. Coming from a wealthy Park Avenue background, existing in an unreal environment, cocooned from adversity, Arbus felt her immunity painful, which explains her attraction to marginalised groups. One can compare Arbus' studies to those of Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe moved from harsh presentations of marginalised gay men's sexuality to soft focus celebrity portraiture. Arbus moved in the opposite direction, from glamour fashion photography with her then husband Alan, to her reality marginalised portraiture. Arbus' experience with fashion provides her composition and while her camera can scrutinise, her photos never patronise. Perhaps this is due to the complicitity apparent from the subjects. These people want to be photographed, and Arbus presents them with dignity. But what makes them compelling is the what Arbus described as the gap between intention and effect, what you want people to know about you and what you can't help people knowing about you. Sometimes, often the thing we see is sadness, but we can't laugh at these people because they are so unguarded. Arbus' photos aren't posed.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
A friend working in bookstore asked why I'd never mentioned being in Diane Arbus' "book of freaks". Until that moment I didn't know but of course I knew she'd photographed me. (There's a hint!) It was without a doubt one of the most intense experiences of my life. That she often saw what others could not is reflected on every page. She called her subjects aristocrats. I think you must be one to see that quality in another. The photographs taken thirty years ago are timeless.Although the clothing, hairstyles and makeup are from a definite era (sixties) one can hardly imagine the subjects dressed any other way. Arbus has created a nation of anachronisms in her book. There is a definite sense of family, of community from page to page; from a Brooklyn bedroom to a Greenwich Village park bench to a lawn party at Willowbrook. Someone asked me how it felt to be in this "book of freaks". I couldn't answer then. But now I can: Even if your face is not on the pages of Monograph you will find yourself there. Just look.
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By A Customer on November 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Quite literally, this book made me want to be a photographer.
I remember seeing this book at my aunt and uncle's house when I was quite young (maybe 5 or 6). Flipping its pages as an adult is quite an experience, but as a child I was equal parts totally enthralled, disturbed, confused and yet completely smitten. I remember becoming quite familiar with the book's many characters, and always looked at this book when I visited their house.
When I started experimenting in photography in my mid-teens, I became re-aquainted with it from visiting bookstores and libraries, and through art history courses.
Her images I think speak more about who she is than who her subjects are, but in a way that is brutally revealing. On the surface, these photographs represent a cross-section of fringe society, with all of its inherant complexity and grit. Cross dressers, midgets, nudists, drug addicts, "dancers" and the like. But they become quite revealing about her psyche during the period she was creating this amazing body of work.
She approaches each subject not at a distance, but with the sensitivity and affection of someone who really cares and is invested in these relationships. She lived with a few of these people, hung out with many others...it was the kind of company she prefered, even after being raised in a very wealthy Jewish family who owned a department store.
The images are confrontational, sensational, unnerving, and a little disturbing. And some have really become icons of modern photography (the boy holding the grenade, the triplets on their bed, and many more).
But what really affected me the most was the exerps collected posthumously in the beginning of the book, in which Arbus describes her method and some of the mantras of her craft.
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Format: Paperback
As Diane Aubus said, 'Nothing is ever the same as they said it was. It's what I've never seen before that recognize.' She liked to visit unknown places, taking photos for unknown people (transvestite, nudist campers, Jewish giant, twins, etc). Reading through this collection of portraits, it would be a discovery-like journeys. Her braveness to approach the subjects. and into their places, and then into their souls. Those people are sometimes not 'beautiful', but you can see the inner world of those people under their faces. The untitled series at the end of book taken with some retarded people, I found that is certainly striking. Finally she committed suicide in 1971, just like leaving an unresolved story ending in her works.
If you are into B/W photos, it is a must buy.
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