Work of the Week – July 2, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Diane Arbus · The King and Queen of a Senior Citizen’s Dance, N.Y.C., 1970, Photograph, Black and White Silver Gelatin Print, 14.75 x 14.5 inches.

By Michelle Alwine

Diane Arbus was born on March 14, 1923 in New York City. Arbus was a photographer and writer known for showcasing the surreal and abnormal. In response to her black and white square photography she said, “I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.”  Throughout her career, Arbus would become known as ‘the photographer of the freaks’ due to the harsh nature of most of her work.

Believing that the camera could be “a little bit cold, a little bit harsh,” Arbus was continuously striving to create photography that brought to life the harshness of reality. Arbus believed that her work often showed the flaws that the world worked so hard to avoid seeing. In 1946 she and her husband Allan began a photography business called “Diane and Allan Arbus.” Through their collaboration, the Arbus duo contributed to several well-known publications such as Vogue, Glamour, and Seventeen Magazine.

During the 1960s, Arbus taught at several institutions including the Parsons School of Design, the Cooper Union in New York City and the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1967 she debuted her first major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art called “New Documents.” Arbus continued to acquire recognition for her work and became admired by many up-and-coming artists of the era.

In her photograph King and Queen of the Senior Citizen’s Dance N.Y.C., Arbus demonstrated her talent as a realist photographer. The image is shot in black and white, and both the man and woman are gazing directly into the camera. This photo hides no blemish and showcases the flaws in human appearance that many artists would aim to conceal. Not only does this image have undeniable character, but it is a peek into the fashion trends of the 60s and 70s.

Diane Arbus committed suicide in her New York City apartment on July 26, 1971. In 1972, Arbus would be recognized as the first American artists to have her photographs showcases at the Venice Biennale.