Culture & Arts

Happy Birthday, Diane Arbus!

Diane Arbus, the rebellious photographer known for capturing people on the periphery of society would have turned 89 today. Arbus, the daughter of prominent department store owners, was able to practice her art at a young age, despite growing up during the Great Depression.

Her father would later become a painter while her sister a sculptor and her brother a United States Poet Laureate, but Arbus, born Diane Nemerov, would make the biggest splash with her controversial career in photography. "Giving a camera to Diane Arbus," Norman Mailer once famously said, "is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child."

Indeed, Arbus' style became incendiary after finally leaving the world of fashion photography after years of being unsatisfied, photographing "freaks" and outsiders. Her signature square-cropped images were second in importance only to the way in which she dealt with her subjects. Arbus was known for establishing close relationships, even checking in from time to time and photographing people again later in life.

A year after taking her own life in 1971 at the age of 48, Arbus became the first American photographer to be exhibited the Venice Biennale, making a huge impact on the global scene. Arbus' distinct style and uncompromising approach to subjects ignored by the mainstream made her an icon of emerging photographic styles, paving the way for free spirits like Nan Goldin and Dash Snow to practice their own forms of photographic exploration.

Happy Birthday, Ms. Arbus. You are missed.

For more images from the photographer, check out her new exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. All images in the slideshow below are courtesy of Fotomuseum Winterthur.

Diane Arbus

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