Street Photography Greats. Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus standing in a park holding cameras

It has been pointed out in an earlier post, if you are devoid of inspiration, look to others. Well here you are. A series of Great Street Photographers to become inspired by.


DIANE ARBUS (1923-1971)

Although Diane is considered to be a great influence on many of the social documentarians we have today, when she took her photographs, mainly of the social outcasts in our society towards the end of her life, they weren’t greatly appreciated. In fact even she wasn’t very keen on them. However, if your angle is to document the forgotten, as many of her assignments were about, she will be a great role model. She was very friendly with another of the people we’re reviewing, Richard Avendon.


Equipment and Style

In the early sixties Arbus switched from a 35 mm Nikon camera to a twin-lens reflex Rolleiflex camera on larger 2 1/4 film. In 1964, Arbus began using a twin-lens reflex Mamiya camera with flash in addition to the Rolleiflex.

She worked mainly in Black and White, and she pioneered the use of flash in daylight. What this will do is highlight your subject, pulling them forward making them stand out. In film you might zoom in while moving backwards, think The Godfather, except in a still.


The Well Known

She also photographed the well known people of her time, people like Mae West, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Bennet Cerf, Madalyn Murray, and Marguerite Oswald (Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother), but she’ll be best remembered for photographing those we tend to forget.


Fact File

Camera: 35mm Nikon, Reflex Rolleiflex, Reflex Mamiya

Where she worked: Unless on assignment, New York

Strengths: Capturing the forgotten, great assignment photographer

Weaknesses: Her health created mood swings which led to a lack of focus and interest, resulting in fewer shots taken then other notables.



“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.”




  1. Those time there is no social media, except radio and newspaper. :p

    But seriously, human nature is always focus on themselves first rather than going around to notice other. If not, I would think not many people in that era appreciate her way of photography.

    Liked by 1 person

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