Auguries for the Experienced: 'Diane Arbus's 1960's: Auguries of Experience'

By Erin Lyndal Martin

gross_diane coverDiane Arbus’s 1960s: Auguries of Experience is challenging in a number of ways. The most glaring problem is not the author’s fault, but it does leave readers wondering how a book centered around photographer Diane Arbus was published at all when the author was unable to get permission to use any of her photographs. That’s right—this is a photography book in which no photographs appear.

Obviously, readers are free to look up the photographs elsewhere, but that creates research that the reader shouldn’t have to do. Moreover, Gross sometimes refers to Arbus’s photography without naming specific prints or in general terms, leaving the readers to trust only his interpretation of her work. Also, while Gross understandably doesn’t wish this work to turn into a biography, the only decontextualized biography he reveals in the introduction is that Arbus died young of suicide. And he brings that fact up to say it should not be the defining moment of her life—agreed, but how else are we to define her, based on his lack of biographical information?

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