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Diane Arbus


Born: 14 March 1923
Died: 26 July 1971 (suicide)
Birthplace: New York, New York
Best known as: New York photographer of oddball humans

Name at birth: Diane Nemerov

Diane Arbus was a New York photographer known for her black and white portraits of eccentrics, carnival performers and, as she put it, "freaks." The daughter of well-to-do fur merchants, she married her teenage sweetheart, Allan Arbus, soon after she turned 18. Together they had a fashion photography business for more than a decade, but in 1959 they ended their partnership and marriage and Diane began studying fine art photography. In the 1960s she worked as a photojournalist, received two Guggenheim fellowships (1963 and 1966) and received critical praise for her vaguely disturbing portraits of society's fringe members. After her 1971 suicide, a national touring exhibit by the Museum of Modern Art and a book of her photographs by Aperture magazine made her one of the most famous fine art photographers in the U.S. Her most famous photos include Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962 and Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967.

Extra credit: An original print of Identical Twins sold for $478,400 in 2004... Her ex-husband, Allan Arbus, left the photography business in the 1960s to pursue an acting career; one of his more notable roles was as psychiatrist Sidney Freedman, a recurring character in the television series M*A*S*H (1972-1983, starring Alan Alda)... She committed suicide after a period of depression by taking barbituates and cutting her wrists... Her brother Howard Nemerov (1920-1991) was twice the Poet Laureate of the United States: from 1963-64 and again from 1988-90.

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