Diane Arbus's 1960sAuguries of Experience

Diane Arbus's 1960sAuguries of Experience

Frederick Gross

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816670116

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Abstract

In any decade the work of only a very few artists offers a template for understanding the culture and ideas of their time. Photographer Diane Arbus is one of these rare artists, and this book returns Arbus’s work to the moment in which it was produced and first viewed to reveal its broader significance for analyzing and mapping the culture of the 1960s. While providing a unique view of the social, literary, and artistic context within which Arbus worked, this book also measures the true breadth and complexity of her achievement. The book considers Arbus less in terms of her often mythologized biography—a “Sylvia Plath with a camera”—but rather looks at how her work resonates with significant photographic portraiture, art, social currents, theoretical positions, and literature of her times, from Robert Frank and Richard Avedon to Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. It shows how her incandescent photographs seem to literalize old notions of photography as trapping a layer of the subject’s soul within the frame of a picture. For Arbus, “auguries”—as in “Auguries of Innocence,” her 1963 photographic spread in Harper’s Bazaar—conveyed the idea that whoever was present in her photograph could attain legendary status.