Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was an artist of the people. Her subjects were not the wealthy and famous, but the average Jane or John Doe on the street or the outsider struggling on the edge of “proper” society. One of the greatest photographers of her era, whose influence is still felt today, her subjects were found on the streets of Times Square, the Lower East Side and the beaches of Coney Island.
The new exhibit at the Met, Diane Arbus; In The Beginning, focuses on the early years of Ms. Arbus’ career – an example of a young artist developing her skill and her unique style. The photographs were taken between 1956 and 1962. Instead of placing the photographs in a specific pattern or grouping, the pictures are placed randomly within the exhibit, allowing visitors to choose their path as they view the pictures.
Born and raised in New York City, Ms. Arbus’ photographs represent the city that was in her blood and her bones. There is an earthiness, a sense of the ordinary that comes out of the photographs. A woman sitting on a bus, children wearing Halloween masks, a male transvestite preparing to go on stage as a female character, a man sunbathing at Coney Island without a shirt enjoying a summer day. These are every day scenes of every day people. If nothing else can be said about New York City, there is a collective individualism that makes this city stand out from among the other large cities around the world. Ms. Arbus’ photographs speak to and about that collective individualism and reminds the viewer about the simple ordinariness of every day life.
Diane Arbus: At The Beginning will be at the Met Breuer until November 27th, 2016. For further information and directions, you can visit The Met Breuer online.