Arbus, Diane: DIANE ARBUS (An Aperture Monograph), 1972. First edition with “Two girls in identical raincoats.”

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DIANE ARBUS
[An Aperture Monograph]
Doon Arbus and Marvin Israel [Designers and Editors]

Diane Arbus: DIANE ARBUS [An Aperture Monograph]. New York: Aperture, 1972. First edition [with "Two Girls in Identical Raincoats, Central Park, N.Y.C, 1969"]. Quarto. Glazed pictorial boards. Photographically printed dust jacket. Unpaginated. Numerous black-and-white reproductions. Designed and edited by Doon Arbus and Marvin Israel. Book boards, fore edges and textblock lightly spotted. Price-clipped jacket with verso lightly spotted. Presents well under archival mylar. A very good copy in a nearly fine dust jacket. Rare in the first edition.

9.5 x 11.25 hardcover book illustrated with full page black and white photographic plates. The rare first printing of the definitive Arbus monograph with the "Two girls in identical raincoats" image that was struck from all but a few copies of (the numerous) subsequent printings. Designed and edited by Doon Arbus and Marvin Israel. One of the most influential photographic monographs ever published.

Published posthumously, the year after her suicide, and in conjunction with a retrospective show at MOMA, the book was edited and designed by Arbus's daughter Doon and Marvin Israel, one of Arbus's former colleagues at Harpers and Queen. A private student of Lisette Model, Diane Arbus left behind her career as a top fashion photographer and turned her attention to society's oddities and outsiders - twins, dwarves, giants, transvestites, the elderly and lonely. Her accent on these people was in no way mocking; rather, these portraits reveal her fascination with life's tragedies as destinies, and how they test both the individual and society itself. As she describes in some of her writings included as the introduction to this collection: "There is a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairytale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle. Most people go through life dreading that they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."

Published in 1972, a year after Arbus's suicide and in conjunction with a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art. The museum's photo curator, John Szarkowski, was an early Arbus supporter... but Arbus's place in the public consciousness was sealed largely by Aperture's book, one of the rare books that has been continually in print. Marvin Israel's spare, almost recessive book lay-out, with pictures on the right-hand page and discreet captions on the left, hasn't lost its punch any more than Arbus's images have lost their power to provoke and disturb... Arbus replaced photography's old model of smarmy humanism with a vision that was once pitiless and engaged, tough and surprisingly tender.

—Vince Aletti in Roth, et. al., THE BOOK OF 101 BOOKS

Susan Sontag on Diane Arbus (from On Photography): "'You see someone on the street,' Arbus wrote, 'and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.' The insistent sameness of Arbus's work, however far she ranges from her prototypical subjects, shows that her sensibility armed with a camera, could insinuate anguish, kinkiness, mental illness with any subject. Two photographs are of crying babies; the babies look disturbed, crazy. Resembling or having something in common with someone else is a recurrent source of the ominous, according to the characteristic norms of Arbus's dissociated way of seeing. It may be two girls (not sisters) wearing identical raincoats whom Arbus photographed together in Central Park; or the twins and triplets who appear in several pictures.

"Many photographs point with oppressive wonder to the fact that two people form a couple and every couple is an odd couple: straight or gay, black or white, in an old-age home or in a junior high. People looked eccentric because they didn't wear clothes, like nudists; or because they did, like the waitress in the nudist camp who's wearing an apron. Anybody Arbus photographed was a freak--a boy waiting to march a pro-war parade, wearing his straw boater and his "Bomb Hanoi"; button; the King and Queen of a Senior Citizens Dance; a thirtyish suburban couple sprawled in their lawn chairs; a widow sitting alone in her cluttered bedroom. In "A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970," the parents look like midgets, as wrong-sized as the enormous son hunched over them under their low living-room ceiling.

"The authority of Arbus's photographs derives from the contrast between their lacerating subject matter and their calm, matter-of-fact attentiveness. This quality of attention--the attention paid by the photographer, the attention paid by the subject to the act of being photographed--creates the moral theater of Arbus's straight-on, contemplative portraits. Far from spying on freaks and pariahs, catching them unawares, the photographer has gotten to know them, reassured them--so that they posed for her as calmly and stiffly as any Victorian notable sat for a studio portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron. A large part of the mystery of Arbus's photographs lies in what they suggest about how her subject felt after consenting to be photographed. Do they see themselves, the viewer wonder, like that? Do they know how grotesque they are? It seems as if they don't.

"The subject of Arbus's photographs is, to borrow the stately Hegelian label, 'the unhappy consciousness.' but most characters in Arbus's Grand Guignol appear not to know that they are ugly. Arbus photographs people in various degrees of unconscious or unaware relation to their pain, their ugliness. This necessarily limits what kinds of horrors she might have been drawn to photograph: it excludes sufferers who presumably know they are suffering, like victims of accidents, wars, famines, and political persecutions. Arbus would never have taken pictures of accidents, events that break into a life; she specialized in slow-motion private smashups, most of which had been going on since the subject's birth."

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