Inspiration: Diane Arbus

From time to time we will post little articles about artists we admire, respect and have been inspired by. Artists who seem to share a similar “Boring ethos” that is unwavering and truly unique. These articles aren’t meant as all encompassing overviews or biographies of these artists, but more as little snapshots to share what motivates us as creatives and a company.

Before there was the quirky, troubled, mysterious and of course naturally gifted nanny/photographer Vivian Maier—there was Diane Arbus, an American photographer. Although Arbus’s most famous subjects were outsiders such as transgender people, strippers, carnival performers, nudists, dwarves, and other marginalized people, she was equally drawn to subjects as ordinary as children, mothers, couples, old people, and middle-class families. In her lifetime she achieved some recognition and renown beginning in 1960, with photographs in such magazines as Esquire,Harper’s Bazaar, the London Sunday Times Magazine, and Artforum. In 1963 the Guggenheim Foundation awarded Arbus a fellowship for her proposal entitled, “American Rites, Manners and Customs”. She was awarded a renewal of her fellowship in 1966. John Szarkowski, the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art from 1962 to 1991, championed her work and included it in his groundbreaking 1967 exhibit New Documents along with the work of Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand. Her photographs were also included in a number of other major group shows.

Through the years while shooting wonderfully candid and surprising images, she had to battle “depressive episodes” similar to those experienced by her mother. Arbus wrote in 1968, “I go up and down a lot,” and her ex-husband noted that she had “violent changes of mood.” On July 26, 1971, while living at Westbeth Artists Community in New York City, Arbus took her own life. She was 48 years old. Photographer Joel Meyerowitz told the journalist, Arthur Lubow, “If she was doing the kind of work she was doing and photography wasn’t enough to keep her alive, what hope did we have?” No record exists as to the location of her ashes.

In 1972, a year after she died by suicide, Arbus became the first photographer to be included in the Venice Biennale where her photographs were “the overwhelming sensation of the American Pavilion. If one’s natural tendency is to be skeptical about a legend, it must be said that all suspicion vanishes in the presence of the Arbus work, which is extremely powerful and very strange.” 


Every time I see a photo of her, I wonder what she was thinking, what she wanted, how she felt and what she was trying to say. I imagine these are the same thoughts she had when she photographed her subjects. I try to use that same inquisitive approach to my work and look a little beyond what the rest of the us might normally see. I also hope that one day, her final resting place will be known so respect can be paid.

Founder, Partner


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