on 31 December 2003
Anyone who has studied photography on a formal course will be pretty familiar with the imagery of Diane Arbus and the untraditional manner in which she employed her brand of square format, direct flash photography, in what at the time was described as photojournalism. Equally they will probably be aware she took her own life in 1971, and since that time has come to be regarded as one of America’s truly ground breaking photographic artists. I was, therefore, unsurprised at first glance by this publication. Produced to accompany a major retrospective exhibition of her work, just begun in San Francisco and coming to the V&A in October 2005, it has exactly the expensive sort of design and high production values you would expect. First glance however made me seriously question whether that was all that was on offer for what the publisher’s release describes as “a milestone book for which we have been waiting years”.
Diane Arbus genuinely was a very major contributor to the both photojournalism and the art of photography; and we have indeed been waiting a very long time for the sort of publication that really gets under the skin of her work. It’s always a subject for concern when the family or estate of an artist under the microscope is so closely connected with the production of a book or exhibition: veils are often drawn across very relevant material that such people feel unable to release into the public domain. Doon Arbus however, perhaps a bit like her mother, seems unconcerned with pulling punches. When you peer beneath the skin of this book, it really does begin to deliver on the subject of the artist and the issues that drove her. On a personal note I would like to have seen many more contact sheet reproductions: those that do appear tell us much about her shooting strategies, and very many more unpublished photographs, of which there must be thousands. But I would not have wished to sacrifice much of the content of this book in order to fit them in. Looking now at this selection of her pictures, made in the region of forty years ago, it’s interesting to note the relevance they retain for contemporary issues. The young man shown here, waiting to March in a pro-war parade, was of course supporting a war long finished; but the sentiment and controversy of the shot seems far from out of place in 2003. Diane Arbus was a troubled, gifted, ground breaking, eventually tragic photographer whose work has very much stood the test of time. Revelations: Diane Arbus makes a real contribution to our understanding of her work and the influence it has had upon a number of photographers practising today.
on 2 November 2005
.... what's the difference between all the 'Revelations' types, Random House, Jonathan Cape etc.???
Regardless, a superb and inspirational tome, whether you're a long term Arbus fan, or a newcomer to her genius.
In my opinion, Arbus' genius comes not from her individual images, but from the impact of the 'body' of her work seen as a whole.
GREAT BOOK, woth every penny of the cover price!
on 4 September 2010
The book is full of very rare items. Not easily organized, but sometimes of high interest. A very important book to have if you are deeply interested on Arbus' work. For more "revelations" on Diane you can find more into her auto biography (is it available on Amazon?) or, if you like to know gossips about Diane's life I suggest the unofficial bio from Bosworth, but mind your steps...