Discover the photographic works of Diane Arbus

"Diane Arbus: The Guggenheim Grant Years, 1963-1967" are the focus of KMR Art's current exhibit. This selection of vintage prints is from a private collection. "A dark beauty exist in these images," says gallery owner Kathryn McCarver Root.

Photographs by Rich Pomerantz; Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (Aperture, 1972/2011)


"Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot,” Diane Arbus once said, according to a 1972 press release from MoMA archives. “It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me… They made me feel a mixture of shame and awe… Most people go through life deciding they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”

Arbus’s powerful, thought-provoking images of people on the fringe were at the forefront of a cultural shift and a new era in photography. In a 1967 MoMA press release about the groundbreaking “New Documents” show (comprised of photographs by Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus), John Szarkowski, MoMA director of the department of photography, said: “In the past decade, this new generation of photographers has redirected the technique and aesthetic of documentary photography to more personal ends. Their aim has been not to reform life but to know it, not to persuade but to understand.”

“Diane Arbus: Guggenheim Grants, 1963–1967” is currently on view at KMR Arts in Washington Depot. This selection of vintage prints (created within a few years of when the original photograph was made) is from a private collection. “A dark beauty exists in these images,” says gallery owner Kathryn McCarver Root. “They are undeniable. The photographs have a presence that doesn’t fully come through unless you see them in person.”

Alongside the photographs, which include the iconic Identical Twins, McCarver Root is displaying a selection of magazines, primarily Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, in which Arbus’s early photojournalistic work appeared. Arbus was often commissioned to take celebrity portraits, such as those of Mae West, Blaze Starr and Anderson Cooper. “The portraits of Diane Arbus show that all of us—the most ordinary and the most exotic of us—are, on closer scrutiny, remarkable. The honesty of her vision is of an order belonging only to those of truly generous spirit,” noted Szarkowski, in the 1967 “New Documents” wall label.

In a relatively short period of time (Arbus committed suicide in 1971), her view of the world made people look at things differently. The Guggenheim Grant years were a crucial turning point for Arbus as she applied for and was awarded grants in 1963 and 1966, which allowed her the financial freedom to pursue her personal creative pursuits. This was also a turning point for her in terms of technology: In 1962, she began using a larger format film rather than 35 mm; and in 1965, she began printing images that included black borders. In 1972 she was the first American photographer to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale.

McCarver Root is honored to present this collection of vintage prints by one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. “Diane Arbus was a true revolutionary whose intelligence and intrepid nature revealed a facet of humanity rarely acknowledged before,” says McCarver Root.

The “Diane Arbus: Guggenheim Grants, 1963–1967” exhibit will run through December 29 at KMR Arts, 2 Titus Rd., Washington Depot, 860-868-7533,