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Diane Arbus: A Biography

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  2,672 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefee, Dinae Arbus exerts a fascination rooted in both her art and her life. Her startling photographic images of dwarfs, twins, transvestites, and freaks seemed from the first to redefine
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1984)
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Arbus' family would not cooperate with Bosworth's biography, and the resulting lack of documentation really shows. It feels improvised and untrustworthy and is overall just pretty poorly written.

Looks like DIANE ARBUS REVELATIONS, a catalog of a huge retrospective organized by Arbus' family and SF MOMA, contains much better info (in addition to her actual photos, which Bosworth couldn't publish).
Mike Lester
What can I say? I suppose I could spout the usual claptrap about the artist breaking free from the bonds of conformity and commercial expectations. Sure. I could do that. But I'd rather not. There's so much more to say than that, but, the thing is, I'm not quite sure how to say it. Diane Arbus was such a singular artist. One who made her mark in a truly original way. To try to encapsulate her work into banal mantras would be to do her a great injustice; this was a woman who visually influenced K ...more
Jakki Newton
Diane Arbus frightens me. Her photographs frighten me (the faces of her subjects seem to stare straight into you), the way she always seemed to give herself away frightens me (her numerous sexual exploits, the confessionals that followed), and her suicide frightens me. I feel angry too. Angry that Allan Arbus left her for another women when she had sacrificed so much for him. I think their separation killed her. I feel angry about a comment at the end of the biography that people were bored with ...more
Apr 11, 2007 Anna rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: female artists and those interested in reading about them
An interesting and troublesome book for me. Arbus's development as a photographer was more gripping than the stories of her career. Her family retains the rights to her work and, according to author Bosworth, refused to grant permission to reproduce any of her photographs; the book suffers for it. Additionally, some research into depression might not be amiss for a biography of someone who committed suicide. If Bosworth did any such research, it doesn't come through. Perhaps she didn't want her ...more
Eh. The first third of the book is much stronger than the last two-thirds. Bosworth points out that Arbus was quite secretive about her daily life, and definitely liked to create her art A L O N E, so there is very little to say about, well, her and her art, because... no one really knows about it.

Unfortunately, Bosworth tries to focus on the creation of Arbus's art and the development of her artistic life when there just isn't enough information, and the book suffers. Once Arbus separates from
A lot of Arbus's life in this that was new to me. It seemed though to be rather weighty at the beginning about her younger life in terms of facts and information compared to her later years which seemed to me to be glossed over through lack of information & in many instances mini bio's of people Arbus was associated with were used as filler. While Bosworth says at the start the family wouldn't talk to her for the book, there are a lot of quotes from various family members. I was stunned to r ...more
ok full of 'i knew diane qutoes from the nanny of her cousin who she hardly met, the obscure aunt who only saw her once, jerry her dads ex sales ladys (they were in the grament trade) ex husband who saw diane in the park once in her pram' ok i made those up but you get the picture. this book is padded out with quotes from 'hangers on' who, it would appear, the author couldn't possibly have spoken to because many where long gone when this was written and the back of the book is full to the brim o ...more
Aug 12, 2007 K rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: artists.
This book was filled with great ideas from a great artist about what photography is, was, can be, would be, to be. Although I find in many reviews people complain that it wasn't intamite enough, I find that a biography doesn't have to divulge every secret in order to be great. There was a secret behind each of her photos as there was behind her life and should the book as well. A great read with refrences to other artists, such as Mary and Robert Frank, that were worth checking out if you weren' ...more
Diane Arbus is so undeniably intriguing and difficult to pin down, that I was able to forgive this biography some of its issues. I liked the honesty of the biographer, Patricia Bosworth, in presenting most information about Arbus' life as sourced from various friends, family members and acquaintances. This allows you to read this narrative as a patchwork of stories from those close to the artist, rather than as god-given 'facts'.

The beginning is juicy with information on Arbus' early life, insi
Cheryl Diane Kidder
You get the impression, when reading this book, that the family had approval of every word. It's too bad that the real story of her life may never be told. Maybe one day one of her children will attempt that. Still, engrossing reading. Like trying to solve a mystery: where did this woman come from, how did her vision develop, what, ultimately happened to her. Great companion book to have read before seeing the wonderful film "Fur".
Lenore Riegel
Just finishing this and I am enthralled. Wonderfully researched, beautifully written - a picture of Diane Arbus as fascinating as any of her photographs. Looking forward to reading more Patricia Bosworth. By the way, I downloaded the eBook from Open Road Media.
Arthur Hoyle
Interesting account of the life and career of a tortured photography artist whose photos document her descent into madness and suicide. Arbus was attracted to the margins of human experience, then fell off the edge.
Interesting for historical value. Sad as a human story. Just okay as a book: author was rather too enamored of her subject in my humble opinion.
Photographer- Biography.

interesting details from Arbus' life but the writing is not very engaging.
marie monroe
Once you see her images and know her time you have to know who she is. She was a woman who said she didn't become a photographer until late in life (38!) because a woman spends the first half of her life getting married and having children.
She was right.

But,she changed art. Not an easy thing to do. Changing art means that whoever comes next to make art can start where that change-agent left off. Changing art rockets us to creative hyperspace and this woman is probably one of the most important p
Her first encounter with the camera that became her signature motif began when she met Allan Arbus, a young photographer several years older than her who did photo shoots for her parents store, with whom she fell in love, later married, divorced but clung to for the rest of her life nonetheless. It was Allan who learned the technical aspect of photography in the military that in turn taught Diane how to process film but it was she who had the eye for photo composition. Her contemporaries includi ...more
I enjoyed reading this biography of Diane Arbus and discovering some very interesting anecdotes about her life. This bio isn't a critical biography, rather a presentation of opinions of people who knew her well written by someone who knew her in real life. I would have been interested to have more of the biographer present in the narrative. There seems to be too much of a New York clique in the story - Diane met this person, then this person who you should know but don't. Sometimes it was diffic ...more
Timothy Finnegan
Had Diane Arbus lived until today she would be a year older than my father. Very strange thought because my father is the very antithesis of cool. She joined the ranks of many cool pop/rock artists who killed themselves consciously and otherwise during the early 70's; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Duane Allman. Diane Arbus broadened the subject matter of still photography; taking sensitive pictures of freaks, nudists, the plain ugly in their natural habitat without apology or shame. ...more
Jesse Cohen
Arbus was a great subject to have, and this was the first biography of the iconoclastic photographer to arrive. Great expectations. Bosworth is diligent, but also stalwart and a bit dull. Her writing is flat at times, and I never felt she understood anything Arbus--and her contemporaries--were doing. Bosworth was a fly on the wall, but she never took flight, and she seems always to land on dung.
Very moving, mostly just because it's Diane Arbus. I took this with a grain of salt because I had heard that it was a bit sensationalistic, not strictly factual in all places, maybe even written for money. Patricia Bosworth sometimes draws conclusions about Diane's character from inconclusive evidence or untrustworthy accounts, and seems over-eager to make her into a tragic figure. Certainly her suicide was tragic and a horrific loss for the artistic world (and the world in general), but the who ...more
Bosworth's biography gets five stars for keeping me occupied during eleven or so hours on a bus chaperoning a school field trip to Washington D.C. The author does a good job of tracing the influence Arbus' early life had on her later career and illuminating some of the likely sources of her fixation on the morbid, the bizarre, the twisted and the forbidden.

I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that Bosworth had relied too much on rumor and distorted some aspects of Arbus' life (possibly I
I am not sure that the writing in the book was terrific, but the subject was certainly fascinating. I have tried twice to watch "Fur", the fictional story of Diane Arbus' life, apparently insoired by this book, but I get so creeped out by the Robert Downey, Jr. charcater that I have to quit. Diane's life was like that...filled with creepy people who fascinated her. The biggest disappointment about this book was the fact that the author had no access to Diane's photos, which are closely guarded b ...more
This is the epitome of boring biography in places, just a slew of names and dates. But then there are really interesting snapshots (forgive the pun) of Arbus' life. It sometimes drags: twenty solid minutes of reading might only cover an afternoon. Sometimes there are particular moments that are obsessed over for page after page and other times while chunks of time are missing. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to what gets omitted.

Notable that Bosworth appears to misgender one of the people
I reluctantly picked up this book because I have heard such mixed reviews of it in inner fine art photographic circles. Curiously, i chose to finally reading it after seeing the movie "Fur", the imaginary biography of Diane Arbus. The movie is a whole other story and review ( I actually like the movie as soon as i stopped thinking of it as true in any sense of the word).
The book, is readable enough and offers an interesting look at the world of photography in the the 40's through the early 70's,
I forgot I finished this, don't come here enough lately, I seldom finish books these days, I just read them and start another! Anyway, I love love love her artwork, but her story was so beautiful and sad and really engaging. It really clears up any negative misconceptions about her motives for taking the kind of photographs that she took, and helped me understand really just how talented and brave she was. She was born with a silver spoon and a heart of gold, a combination that I personally love ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Leilani rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
This book was interesting enough to keep me reading it...but if the people closest to her didn't collaborate with the author at all, how accurate is the story?
I feel like I'm reaching out to find out how other women artists do it. I became fascinated with Diane Arbus's life after watching the movie FUR with Nicole Kidman.

I like that Diane saw herself as an Alice in Wonderland. She earned the trust of people who were misunderstood, communities that were dark and a little grotesque, and she tried to understand them through film.

I think that's what I want to do through my writing. I want to act like a translator between people and things who are misunder
This was good - I'd recommend it to anyone interested in Diane Arbus and her photography. But Arbus was a very odd soul, very troubled, and I think the author herself found some aspects of her life a little hard to stomach. You could say that it's a look into 20th century feminine art, but Arbus herself wasn't a feminist - at least she didn't consider herself one. And the author couldn't get permissions from anyone to use material in the story, so you're left without visual representation for al ...more
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Diane Arbus' life and work is totally engrossing, but this biography suffers from a lack of illustration and access to the Arbus archives. As a result it's fairly vague and repetitive. Bosworth must use that Lisette Model quote at least five times. Also at one point she depicts Arbus as a woman who 'rarely' cried, then going on to describe her continuously bursting into tears at the slightest provocation. Incredibly absorbing though if you're the least bit interested in Diane Arbus and the amazi ...more
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Patricia Bosworth is an American journalist and biographer. A former faculty member of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, she has also been an editor, actress, and model.
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