DIANE ARBUS’ EAGLE EYE
By Dairia Kymber
Diane Arbus was one of the most revolutionary photographers of the 20th century. Her story began with fashion. She shot campaigns for several fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Though celebrated, fashion photography can seem like a tamed environment, especially for an authentically artistic mind like Diane Arbus. She longed to learn more from her own work. Eventually, she departed ways with her career in fashion photography and became the eagle eye of her generation, capturing humanity’s true essence on her 35mm film camera. For the first time, those infant captures of Arbus’ notable career will be on display in a new exhibition entitled “diane arbus: in the beginning“.
Her husband, Allan Arbus, gifted her the camera that orchestrated her lifelong addiction. Having the ability to transport the device to any setting resonated with her effort in leaving the confinements of a studio. She, like most artists, operated without bigotry. She would shoot all over New York City from Coney Island to Central Park, quite often of individuals who society would deem freaky or weird. Her camera shuttered when she was compelled by the character of ordinary individuals. The emotion behind the photos is the reason why she is so celebrated and iconic today. Up until her death in 1971, Arbus numbered her roll of film documenting the transformation of her artistry. The very first roll, featuring 70 shots, will be displayed for the first time at the Met Breur. “Nobody could do this exhibition but the Metropolitan Museum,” said chief photography curator Jeff Rosenheim. “We have her archive, her papers and hundreds of her photographs.”
Viewing Darbus’ work, one thing is for certain: No portrait is in vain. Each encounter has a sense of intimacy and reason, which can also be attributed to her consistent use of black and white shooting. Her capture of identical twin sisters Cathleen and Colleen Wade is a prime example of her portrayal of personalities. Though they stood side by side in the same aesthetic, their expressions indicate their own nature. This particular image also inspired Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining which features twins in a similar pose. Many people were engrossed in her capture of a young boy holding a toy grenade in Central Park. His overly zealous expression paired with the context of the toy grenade changed the perspective of an ordinary boy doing an ordinary thing. A young man with plucked eyebrows, curlers in his head and cigarette on his long-fingernailed hand was captured by Darbus and received strong reactions from viewers, most of them being negative. The list goes on and on, but one can infer that accepting and celebrating all walks of life was Darbus’ artistic objective. Her photography made you see what you wouldn’t normally look for.
What will the early stages of her works show us? View the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from now until November 27, 2016.