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Library Journal First Look at New Books: Diane Arbus's 1960s

By Shauna Frischkorn
XPress Reviews/Library Journal

Diane Arbus’s photographs redefined portrait photography in the 1960s, and, since her untimely death in 1971, she has become a legend in the art world. Her unusual lifestyle, peculiar photographic interests, and unfortunate suicide at the age of 48 have made her a larger-than-life figure. Multiple biographies have been published about her; she has even inspired a motion picture, Fur (2006), which starred Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. Here, however, Gross (art history, Savannah Coll.) separates the myth from the photographs by encouraging viewers to reexamine Arbus’s tremendous influence on art, photography, and popular culture in that explosive decade. Curiously, the book does not contain any photographs, owing to a refusal from the Arbus estate. According to Gross, the estate’s overcontrol of Arbus’s work and information about her life only adds to the mystique and detracts from the genuine impact she has made on the history of photography.
Verdict Gross skillfully discusses a range of subjects (e.g., documentary photography, portraiture, the body, the social climate) and how they relate to Arbus and her work. Highly recommended for all photography and art collections as well as for photography enthusiasts.

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Diane Arbus’s 1960s