“Photography has never been made coequal to the other arts. Yet, you might say it’s superior, because it’s more dangerous.”
Arthur Lubow‘s fantastic new book, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (Ecco), explores the life and death of a key figure in the history of photography-as-art. We talk about the evolution of photography from documentation to expression, the role Diane Arbus played in that transformation, her sensibility and intellect and how she expressed them both in her photography and her writing, Arbus’ collaborative method of portraiture, her fascination with and sympathy for “freaks”, why it’s counterproductive to look to Arbus’ photos for clues to her suicide, and more! Give it a listen! And buy Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer!
“What’s important is why and how she was able to produce these amazing photographs, not why she took her own life.”
We also talk about the perils of anhedonia, the missing pages of Arbus’ datebook, Arbus’ anxiety about commercial and critical success, the new sources that Arthur uncovered, who Arbus might have become had she not killed herself, the challenge of writing a biography about an artist, and whether Arbus “exploited” her subjects. It’s a fascinating conversation about a major artistic figure, so give it a listen!
“It was Arbus more than anyone else who helped instigate the change in the artistic status of photography.”
About our Guest
Arthur Lubow is a journalist who writes mainly about culture. He has been a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. About his previous biography, The Reporter Who Would Be King, on the turn-of-the-century war correspondent and novelist Richard Harding Davis, Naomi Bliven wrote in The New Yorker that “the biographer uses his documentation deftly and thoughtfully; we feel we know Davis intimately….Lubow’s work is impressive in every way, but his most impressive achievement is getting Davis’s charm on paper. Charm is always impalpable, and it’s highly perishable when the charmer has vanished. You don’t find Davis’s charm on every page of Davis, but you find it everywhere in Lubow.” The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library, Lubow is the winner of a James Beard Award and a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. He lives in New York City and East Haddam, CT.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at Arthur’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue enCORE 200 Microphone feeding into a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of Mr. Lubow by me, portrait of him by Stephen Salmieri.