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Diane Arbus: A Biography

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  3,623 ratings  ·  151 reviews
Like Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefee, Diane 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 both the normal and the abnormal in our lives and they were already becoming part of the iconography of the age when Arbus committed suicide in 1971. Arbu ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1984)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,623 ratings  ·  151 reviews

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Sep 05, 2008 rated it did not like it
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).
Jakki Newton
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
The curse of having too many interests: no patience to focus on one of them at a time. I would love to read biographies more, but there are too many interesting books and movies! I finally got back to them, but it was a conflicting experience.

What I love about biographies is the fact that the good ones are well researched and objective. Memoirs leave room for the person to twist events in their favor or leave uncomfortable things out.

The problem with trying to write about Diane Arbus specificall
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a briefer biography than Arthur Lubow's by about two hundred pages. While Bosworth did not shy away from Arbus' deviant sexual proclivities, she avoided that salacious detail Lubow enjoyed indulging in, which may account for the shorter version.

Also, this biography was written in 1984 and without the cooperation of Arbus' husband, lover Marvin Israel or her daughters, Amy and Doon, which could also explain a greater lack of detail than Lubow's book. Her brother, Howard, mother, Gertrude
Katie Jo
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have never read a bio as engrossing as this. It reads like a novel and Diane Arbus is so bizarre and interesting that even the most trivial aspects of her life kept my attention.
Apparently the movie Fur (one of my long time favorites) is based on this particular biography, but after reading it I see little connection, even knowing that the movie was intentionally very loosely referenced.
Diane was a really fascinating person, and to be so famously mysterious a person I was impressed by how re
Cheryl Diane Kidder
Jun 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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".
Doug H - On Hiatus
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Full review to follow. (Which means I liked it enough to write a review, but I don't currently have enough energy to write a decent one and I will probably never actually get around to writing a review at all.)
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: library-loan, dnf
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
Jul 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
In June, I visited the photography collection of the Museum of Modern Art where I saw several portraits by Diane Arbus, whose work has fascinated me since I first encountered it in a college photography class. Later that week, I learned that Nicole Kidman was set to star in “Fur,” an adaptation of Patricia Bosworth’s Arbus biography. Then the August issue of Vanity Fair included an article about the film’s production history. I finally took these cosmic hints and brought Bosworth’s book on vacat ...more
marie monroe
Feb 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Arthur Hoyle
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Lenore Riegel
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
Photographer- Biography.

interesting details from Arbus' life but the writing is not very engaging.
Jul 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
never so shallow a book about so complex a trash
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I loved the story of how her family came to this country and succeeded in creating a dept. store. They lived in some famous buildings in NYC and she had a relatively good life as a child. Parental involvement does not play much of a role and there is little known about her relationship with her mother. She and her brother were very close until she married in her late teens.
She is always searching for something, which is very true of this period 1950-1960's NYC.
Once she and her husband not longe
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Diane (Dee-Ann) Arbus was an American photographer (with a Jewish-Polish ancestry) from NYC. Her most famous photograph is of the TWINS which inspired Stanley Kubricks' "twin characters" in The Shining! He was originally a photographer which is why he was exposed (pun!) to her photographs in the first place.

A surprising photograph she took was of the anchor Anderson Cooper as a baby! If you didn't know he comes from a wealthy family "The Vanderbilts" and so his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, commission
Chloe Noland
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful, detailed, extremely poignant and loving biography of one of my favorite artists. I have always been fascinated and moved by her photography, but I was surprised to find Arbus so relatable, in terms of her struggle between the power of her inner world and outside reality. It was really heartbreaking to realize that this inability to negotiate with her demons is what ultimately caused her death. I really appreciated the author's insights into her childhood, her relationships, and adult ...more
Regina Stevens
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned

A fascinating roller coaster ride of obsessive personal relationships, and continual self discovery. Patricia Bosworth neatly outlines the influences of Diane’s early years and ties to her family as her life story unfolds. The New York art world is a key player in the story including the artists and contemporaries who were socially and artistically relevant to her life and work. I found it useful to have a search engine handy to help illustrate the many historical references and images. I was m
Nov 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Diane Arbus was a great photographer. She had the ability to take photos that looked into the souls of her subjects. Her subjects were often on the fringe of society and were referred to as freaks, but that never caused her to turn away. If you are unfamiliar with her works or her life this book gives you good insight. If you are already a fan of hers you will find this book lacking on information concerning her family life. Although it is very readable it lacks information.
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend. Beautiful person, lots to learn about her and how she sees the world
Jul 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
A lifelessly written account of a true capital L life.
Dominik Scigalski
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Exceptional inspiration for photography enthusiasts and humanists.
Marta Jochym
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Honest, powerful and moving.
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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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.
“I can’t defend this position, but I think I take photographs because there are things that nobody would see unless I photographed them.” 3 likes
“Aristocracy was linked to a nobility of mind, a purity of spirit, as well as inexhaustible courage.” 0 likes
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