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An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus Hardcover – August 30, 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Absorbing analysis of [Arbus's] life... The book builds up to its final theory that Arbus's art served as an "accelerant" for her suicide. The dark nature of the work sucked her deeper into her personal abyss." --The Independent

"Armed with interviews with her psychotherapist as well as autobiographical fragments, this new "psychobiography" sheds light on Arbus's opaque personality. Above all, [Schultz] shows how the photographer projected her inner torment and sense of estrangement onto her unsuspecting sitters." --The Economist

"Schultz sifts and shapes his material with flair, working towards [Arbus's] death with all the planning of a good thriller. The temptation with any artist suicide, he warns us, is to find the "dark calculus" in their art. His triumph lies in making her suicide the one thing you don't see when you return to her images. -The Telegraph

"Poignant and provocative, An Emergency in Slow Motion offers an entirely new way of relating to and understanding one of the most revered and influential postmodern photographers, in the process raising timeless and universal questions about otherness, the human condition, and the quest for making peace with the self." -Brain Pickings

"Like her pictures, this dark inner life is not pretty... but it is discomfortingly enlightening." --Shelf Awareness

“Exceptional prose, illuminating psychological theory, and the visceral memories of those who knew her add up to a haunting portrait of Arbus as a tenacious and quixotic artist whose outré photographs blaze on in all their strange romance, protest, and longing.” ―Booklist

“With extraordinary interviews with new sources, William Todd Schultz's An Emergency in Slow Motion... promises to be an explosive contribution to what's known about Diane Arbus.” ―Daily Beast

“A sensitive but deeply provocative psychobiography.” ―Vogue.com

“Schultz is a sharp, lucid writer... He proceeds with a sense of reflection, perspective, and nuance.” ―NPR.org

“Our Virgil on this journey into [Arbus's] inner world is William Todd Schultz... he marshals an impressive list of sources... [and] sifts and shapes his material with flair.” ―Telegraph (UK)

“William Todd Schultz has done the impossible; he's pulled Diane Arbus out from under the black shroud of the photographer's cape and into the light. An Emergency in Slow Motion is the book Arbus's legions of admirers have long waited for: a vivisection of her psyche that allows us--the voyeurs she made of us--to understand her stark, accusatory vision.” ―Kathryn Harrison, author of The Kiss

“This portrait of the art and psyche of Diane Arbus is exciting and wrenching and full of revelations. And it is a model for the promise of William Todd Schultz's larger project to infuse psychobiography with curiosity, humility, and intelligence. Readers may be left, as I was, considering the eternal, essential, impossible problem: how to look at darkness.” ―Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Lincoln's Melancholy

“Schultz has written a short psychological symphony. He begins with a few simple themes--about secrets and sex, about photographing freaks, about being a freak and photographing the self. Calling upon contemporary psychological research, extraordinary empathy, and a deep understanding of how madness and creativity often intersect, Schultz introduces surprising variations on these themes, as the music builds in complexity, texture, and beauty, pulling the reader forward, inexorably, to the dramatic conclusion” ―Dan P. McAdams, author of George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream

About the Author

William Todd Schultz is a professor of psychology at Pacific University in Oregon, focusing on personality research and psychobiography. He edited and contributed to the groundbreaking Handbook of Psychobiography, and curates the book series Inner Lives, analyses of significant artists and political figures. His own book in the series, Tiny Terror, examines the life of Truman Capote. Todd Schultz blogs for Psychology Today.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608195198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608195190
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was very much looking forward to this book and pre-ordered months before it was available. I must admit that at first I was a bit disappointed. If you have read the Patricia Bosworth biography and the "Revelations," collection there is very little new information here. Rather than seeking out a lot of new sources or going back and doing follow up interviews on old sources, Schultz repeats familiar quotes regarding Arbus and surrounds them with his own personal analysis. He seems intelligent and a more than decent writer but his interpretations of what Arbus said and what others said about her seemed (to me) not enough to make up an entire book. Also, other than the cover, there are no photographs in the book.

There are a few new revelations that he managed to get from Arbus' psychiatrist Helen Boigon. They are fascinating but sparse and it seems Schultz didn't dig very deep with the admissions she made. They read more like sound-bites or teasers. Dr. Boigon's revelations beg for elaboration--follow up questions. Perhaps his time with her was limited. For one glaring missed opportunity he admits that she died before he had a chance to question her about it. In addition to what he got from Helen Boigon, Shultz exchanged emails with potential Arbus subjects Phyllis and Eberhard Kronhausen (she never actually photographed them.) They tell of one very interesting encounter. All of the new information that the book offers would have made for an interesting magazine article. It is not enough to justify a book.

When I first heard about this book, I was hoping for an abundance of new information regarding Arbus not many quotes from previous published material that I have read in books or on the internet. Since the quotes were very familiar to me, I found myself skimming.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Though there is some interesting information about the talented photographer Diane Arbus, this author rambles on and on, often repeating information to beat a point to death. After reading awhile I just became bored with the insinuations and amateur psychological profile and moved on to a more interesting, better written book...could not finish this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Terrible writer, says the same thing over and over again, always with himself as the focus of attention.

Has no scholarly or personal connections with Diane Arbus. A waste of time to read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
William Todd Schultz's psycho biography, "An Emergency in Slow Motion, The Inner Life of Diane Arbus", is a psychological interpretation of Diane Arbus' interior life and how it influenced her photographic work. Conversely, Schultz also looked at how Arbus' work - her subject matter - may have affected her psyche. Most of the author's resources came from previously published books and articles. He added a few personal interviews, one with Ms. Arbus' psychologist, Helen Boigon, and the other with one of her potential photographic subjects, the Kronhausens'. Having a background in photography and a personal interest in it, I own and read the same material Schultz used to conduct his study. Mainly, Patricia Bosworth's 1984 biography of Diane Arbus and two of her photography books, issued by Doon Arbus and her Estate through Aperture. These contain personal interviews with Arbus, taped recordings from her classes, as well as her previously written texts. (Arbus was an excellent and prolific writer as well as photographer. She often wrote the text that accompanied her magazine articles.) At the time Ms. Arbus took her life, in 1971, she was considered a legend who influenced her students as well as professional photographers. Today, some 40 years later, she still inspires many emerging and established artists.

As with anyone who has attained this stature, especially those who may not have appreciated her likeness of them, rumors and misrepresentations often abound. As it relates to Diane Arbus, the anecdote the public is most aware of, and is in fact accurate, is Ms. Arbus' fight with depression. Beyond that, is speculation and rumor. Our culture is all too eager to ride the salacious tide when a "weakness" is perceived.
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Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon this book in a very hip Manhattan Photo/Art Bookstore. Asked if anyone had read it, and no one had. When I purchased it, I said something like, "It's either going to be good, or very bad". Unfortunately, it is more psychobabble than insight into Diane Arbus and/or her work. As other reviewers have noted, there is very little new here, and if you have read Revelations and Bosworth's biography, there's not much to be gained. Of course, when you have an estate obsessed with keeping information from the public, and a book about a photographer with no photographs, you are starting deep in a hole. Notwithstanding, I found many parts of the book/analysis akin to wading through molasses, without the benefit of the sweetness. Sorry, I too was really looking forward to more insight into the life and work of one of the 20th century most influential, and controversial, photographers. Unfortunately, I didn't find it here ...
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Format: Paperback
First things first, if one is unfamiliar with the artist's work; this tome is best approached with "Revelations" or the classic Aperture monograph readily available as a multitude of her images are described, but nothing is visually presented.
If one has read Bosworth's biography (early eighties), there is not much new detail to be learned here beyond the insights gained from Mr Schultz's conversation with Arbus' analyst, obviously written before the advent of HIPAA protections that should prevent medical information disclosure. There is not a lot of psychiatric revelation coming from the late Dr. Boigon either, which might appear self serving given that the therapeutic intervention proved unsuccessful.
Were the Arbus estate ever to make her entire body of work (including journals and datebooks) available, then I believe a better picture might emerge. Allan Arbus is no longer with us, Doon (the estate's custodian) is getting up in years as well. Neither cooperated with Bosworth or Schultz, nor would I expect Doon or Amy Arbus (a photographer in her own right) to deviate from their current stance that "the work should speak for itself". In my estimation, "Revelations", despite it's obvious omissions and edits, is likely to remain the last word on this great artist.
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