B. Diane Nemerov, New York, 1923-1971
She was born into a Jewish family who owned a department store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. In 1941 at age eighteen, she married Allan Arbus and for a decade the couple worked together producing photographs for magazines: he operated the camera, she styled the images. Although she started making pictures for herself in the early 1940s, it was only in 1956, when she numbered a roll of film #1, that she began seriously pursuing the work for which she has come to be known.
Arbus’s first magazine story appeared in Esquire in 1960. During the next decade, while continuously working on her own personal projects, she published more than a hundred photographs in Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and other major American magazines. These included portraits and photographic essays, which were occasionally accompanied by her own writing.
In 1963 Arbus received the first of her two Guggenheim Fellowships and traveled across the United States photographing the people, places, and events she described as “the considerable ceremonies of our present.” These photographs became the focus of critical and popular attention in 1967 when they were featured with the work of Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand in the legendary “New Documents” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Arbus committed suicide in July 1971, just months after releasing a portfolio of ten prints that was intended to be the first in a series of limited editions of her work. In 1972, she became the first photographer to be included in the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In the same year, The Museum of Modern Art hosted a major exhibition of her photographs that traveled throughout the United States and Canada. The monograph that served as the exhibition catalogue has never been out of print and remains one of the most important and widely distributed photographic books of all time. In the 45 years since Diane Arbus’s death, millions of people have been drawn to the many major international museum retrospectives that explore the controversial work of this photographer whose singular vision revolutionized the art she practiced.
Curator in Charge of the Photographs Department, The Metropolitan Museum (New York). The author of ten books on Walker Evans, Rosenheim is the steward of the Walker Evans Archive, which the Metropolitan acquired in 1994. He is also the custodian of the Diane Arbus Archive. Rosenheim has a BA in American studies from Yale University, and an MFA in photography from Tulane University. He has lectured extensively, curated numerous exhibitions, such as Photography and the American Civil War (2013), and published essays on a wide range of artists including Carleton Watkins, Thomas Eakins, Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston, and Stephen Shore.
Images: Lady on a bus, N.Y.C. 1957
and detail of The Backwards Man in his hotel room, N.Y.C. 1961. © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC.
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