Revelations by Diane Arbus - review by Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje

Pictures From The Edge



Jonathan Cape 351pp £60 order from our bookshop

'DIANE ARBUS: REVELATIONS’, the retrospective of that great photographer's work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which ends on 8 February, is only the second major exhibition of her work since she died in 1971 and it will come to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in October 2005. This book - by far the most expansive on Arbus so far, and published to coincide with the exhibition - has two hundred full-page duotones of the artist's photographs, many of which have never been seen before. The book also includes a compassionate explanatory essay by Sandra S Phillips, the senior curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and a discussion of Arbus's printing techniques by Neil Selkirk, the only person authorised to print her photographs since her death. There is also a 104-page chronology (compiled by Doon Arbus, the artist's elder dauhter. and Elisabeth ", Sussman, the curator of the San Francisco exhibition), which makes use of three hundied additional images, together with letters, notes and o thgr writings by Diane Child with a tq handprude Arbus, and provides a mesmerising biography of the tortured photographer. It is a compelling document.

Diane Arbus, née Nemerov, was born in 1923, into a wealthy New York Jewish family. She grew up privileged but isolated and was sent to the best New York private schools, though not to college. She married Man Arbus when she was eighteen years old, and five years later opened

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