Diane Arbus ( /diːˈæn ˈɑrbəs/; March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971)was an American photographer and writer noted for black-and-white square photographs of “deviant and marginal people (dwarfs, giants, transvestites, nudists, circus performers) or of people whose normality seems ugly or surreal.” A friend said that Arbus said that she was “afraid… that she would be known simply as ‘the photographer of freaks’”; however, that phrase has been used repeatedly to describe her.
In 1972, a year after she committed suicide, Arbus became the first American photographer to have photographs displayed at the Venice Biennale. Millions of people viewed traveling exhibitions of her work in 1972–1979. In 2003–2006, Arbus and her work were the subjects of another major traveling exhibition, Diane Arbus Revelations. In 2006, the motion picture Fur, starring Nicole Kidman as Arbus, presented a fictional version of her life story.
Although some of Arbus’s photographs have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, Arbus’s work has provoked controversy; for example, Norman Mailer was quoted in 1971 as saying “Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.”