Close this search box.

Diane Arbus


Step into the extraordinary world of Diane Arbus, an iconic figure in the realm of photography. Her unique perspective and daring approach to capturing images have left an indelible mark on art history. From her early years to her rise as a renowned artist, this blog post will take you on a journey through Diane Arbus's life, shedding light on her artistic style, notable works, exhibitions, and well-deserved accolades. Get ready to delve into the captivating biography of one of photography's most enigmatic visionaries – Diane Arbus!

More Facts

Name: Diane

Surname: Diane


Lives & Works:

Lives in State:

Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 1971


Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Diane Arbus
Image Credit: MoMA

Early Life and Education

Diane Arbus was born in 1923, in New York. Growing up in an affluent Jewish family, she had a privileged upbringing and exposure to the arts from a young age. However, her childhood was not without its struggles. Her parents’ marriage was strained, leading to their eventual separation when Diane was just 14 years old.

Despite facing personal challenges within her family, Arbus found solace in photography early on. She received her first camera at the tender age of 18 and began exploring the streets of New York City with an insatiable curiosity. This exploration became the catalyst for her artistic journey.

Arbus went on to study under renowned photographers such as Berenice Abbott and Lisette Model before eventually opening her studio alongside her husband, Allan Arbus. It was during this time that she honed her unique style – one that focused on capturing marginalized individuals who existed outside societal norms.

Her education and experiences shaped Arbus’s perspective as an artist intrigued by those often overlooked by society. Through photography, she sought to give voice to those deemed unconventional or different—a theme that would become central in many of her iconic works.

What is Diane Arbus known for?

Diane Arbus
Image Credit: MoMA

Diane Arbus was a famous American photographer known for her unique and often controversial style. She is famous for her black and white photographs that captured the unconventional and marginalized individuals of society. 

Arbus had a talent for capturing the raw and intimate moments of her subjects, often depicting people who were considered outsiders or on the fringes of society. Her work explored themes of identity, vulnerability, and the human condition. 

Arbus’s photographs have had a significant impact on the field of photography and continue to be celebrated for their artistic and documentary value. Her fearless approach to capturing the diversity of human experience has solidified her legacy as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.

Career highlights

Diane Arbus
Image Credit:

Career Beginning and Artistic Style

Diane Arbus’s career as a photographer began in the early 1940s when she and her husband, Allan Arbus, started a commercial photography studio together. While initially focused on fashion and advertising photography, Diane soon felt constrained by the limitations of these genres.

It was during this time that she started to develop her unique artistic style. Instead of capturing traditional beauty or glamour, Arbus became fascinated with photographing people on the fringes of society. She sought out subjects who were often marginalized or considered unconventional.

Arbus had an uncanny ability to capture raw emotions and reveal the vulnerability of her subjects. Her photographs were characterized by their intimate and often uncomfortable portrayal of individuals living outside societal norms.

Her approach to photography was groundbreaking for its time. She pushed boundaries and challenged conventional notions of what made a subject worthy of being photographed. In doing so, she paved the way for photographers to explore new perspectives and redefine the concept of beauty in art.

What kind of film did Diane Arbus use?

In terms of the film she used, Arbus primarily worked with medium-format cameras, such as the Rolleiflex and the Mamiya C220. These cameras allowed her to capture square-format images on medium-format film. Arbus preferred black and white film for its tonal range and ability to convey emotion and mood. 

She often used high-speed films to capture detail in low-light situations, which added a gritty and raw quality to her photographs. Arbus’ choice of cinema played a crucial role in shaping the aesthetic and impact of her iconic images.

What was Diane Arbus inspired by?

Diane Arbus, a renowned photographer known for her unique and often controversial portraits, drew inspiration from a variety of sources. One of her major influences was the world of outsiders and marginalized individuals. She often photographed people who were considered to be on the fringes of society, such as drag queens, and individuals with physical disabilities. 

Arbus was fascinated by the idea of capturing the essence of these individuals and revealing the complexities of human existence. Additionally, Arbus was inspired by the work of other photographers, such as August Sander and Weegee, who also focused on documenting people on the outskirts of society.

What lens did Diane Arbus use?

In terms of the lens she used, Arbus primarily used a 35mm camera with a standard lens. It allowed her to capture her subjects more naturally and realistically, without distortion or exaggeration. However, she also occasionally used a medium format camera with a wide-angle lens, which allowed her to capture more of the scene or include multiple subjects in her frame.

Diane Arbus List of Work

Diane Arbus
Image Credit:4 Columns

Diane Arbus, a celebrated American photographer, left an incredible mark on the art world with her unique approach to capturing human subjects. Throughout her career, she pushed boundaries and challenged societal norms through her thought-provoking images. Let us delve into some of her most iconic artworks, exhibitions, and accolades that solidified her place in history.

Arbus’ body of work is known for its raw honesty and unflinching portrayal of marginalized individuals. She sought out subjects who were often overlooked or deemed unconventional by society. 

Some of her notable photographs include:


Identical Twins

It captures two young girls standing side by side with an eerie sense of sameness.


Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park

It is a striking portrait that reveals both vulnerability and intensity.


Arbus’s work gained recognition through exhibitions at prestigious institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Despite facing criticism for her controversial subject matter, she continued to pursue her unique vision until her tragic death in 1971.


Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

In 1972, just one year after her untimely death at the age of 48, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) held a major retrospective titled “Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph.” This exhibition brought together over 150 photographs collected from various periods throughout her career.


Documenta – an international contemporary art exhibition

She became the first American photographer to be included in Documenta – an international contemporary art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany.


Diane Arbus will forever be remembered as a pioneer who fearlessly explored themes surrounding identity and individuality through photography. Her artistic style revolutionized portraiture by exposing hidden truths beneath society’s surface.

Her groundbreaking achievements continued when she was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in both 1963 and 1966.

Diane Arbus left behind a powerful legacy that continues to inspire photographers today. Her fearless exploration into the lives of those deemed “different” serves as a reminder that there is beauty in all aspects of humanity – even those that may be uncomfortable or challenging to confront.

What techniques did Diane Arbus use?

Diane Arbus used a variety of techniques to capture her subjects in a raw and revealing way. 

One of the techniques she employed was engaging with her subjects on a personal level, often spending time with them and getting to know them before taking their photograph. It allowed her to create a sense of intimacy and trust, resulting in powerful and authentic images.

Arbus also utilized composition and lighting to create a specific mood or atmosphere in her photographs. She often used natural or minimal artificial lighting to highlight certain elements or evoke a particular emotion. Additionally, she experimented with different angles and perspectives to add visual interest and depth to her images.

Discover Artists



Page link

Link successfully copied. Ready to paste!