Diane Arbus: A Chronology (book)

Ok, I promise this is the last post about Diane Arbus for a while. But I received the book Diane Arbus: A Chronology as a Christmas gift and have enjoyed it so much it seemed selfish not to share. I knew as soon as I saw the beautifully-typefaced cover that this book could be great, and it hasn’t disappointed.

The content of the book comes mostly from Arbus’ correspondences with friends, family, and colleagues; personal notebooks, and day-planners. Elisabeth Sussman co-authored the book with Doon Arbus, Diane’s daughter and manager of her estate after her death). Diane Arbus: A Chronology is an intimate look into the private and working life of one of history’s great photographers. It feels almost a little too personal to be reading through someone else’s letter, and notes to herself, but who doesn’t like a good peek into someone else’s private life? Arbus is a poetic and honest writer. All of the sources, be a school assignment from her childhood, a letter to her young daughter at camp, a postcard to her lover, or annotations on her application for the Guggenheim Fellowship, give insight into this thoughtful artist.

On inclusion in MoMA’s New Documents exhibition – ….”Dear John I looked in the box and maybe I was still sick that first time or something but I don’t like a lot of the pictures so…[could we meet] pleas for dinner (or breakfast or lunch) so we can come to an understanding. I am in no particular hurry though because I fancy that what I am doing now is better than most of what I have done but it’s true I haven’t even seen it yet.”  -Letter to John Szarkowski,November 8, 1966

On taking portraits – …”I think it does, a little, hurt to be photographed. Please may I someday photograph your house, your ark, your things?” -Postcard to Marvin Israel, January 5, 1960

On money and work – …”Editors appear to be putting me off … It is partly that my reputation has gotten enormous and…somehow people decide either that I am too big for my britches or temperamental or simply that I need taking down a peg. It is a terribly familiar syndrome… I am not as good a photographer as people think except sometimes and in my head. And somehow they don’t like it that I am no good or too good. I will never be just right.” -Letter to Carlotta Marshall, circa November 1968

The book is available on Amazon [affiliate link]. It’s a great investment if you’re interested in biographies, Arbus, or just snooping around in other people’s things.

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