Viewing Record 1 of 1

A Woman in a Bird Mask, N.Y.C.

  • Accession Number:
  • Artist:
    Arbus, Diane
  • Date:
  • Medium:
    Gelatin silver print
  • Dimensions:
    image: 14 1/2 in x 14 5/8 in; paper: 19 15/16 in x 16 1/16 in
  • Credit Line:
    Museum purchase

About the Photographer

Arbus, Diane

American, 1923-1971

If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, "I want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life." I mean people are going to say, "You're crazy." Plus they're going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that's a reasonable kind of attention to be paid.

– Diane Arbus

Among the most prominent and influential photographers of her generation, Diane Arbus is perhaps best remembered for her frank studies of marginalized groups and subcultures. Yet in addition to the nudists, transgender, carnival performers, and the cognitively-impaired or developmentally-delayed residents of asylums, Arbus also photographed socialites, celebrities, and anonymous strangers passing through New York's streets and parks. For instance, Arbus photographed regularly at Coney Island in the 1950s, producing such pictures as Two Girls in Matching Bathing Suits, Coney Island, N.Y.. Made a decade later, the 1967 photograph A Woman in a Bird Mask, N.Y.C. is perhaps a less confrontational portrait, though just as revealing in its rendering of a costume askew. It was made in the same year that the Museum of Modern Art in New York showed the magazine and personal work of Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand in the exhibition New Documents organized by John Szarkowski.

Diane Nemerov, a sister of poet Howard Nemerov, was born in New York on March 14, 1923 and raised on Manhattan's Upper West Side. In 1941 she married Allan Arbus, and the two began a joint career in fashion photography a few years later. By the mid-1950s she was photographing on her own, however, and separated from Allan in 1959. Around the same time she began to study with Lisette Model and fully develop the style she would become known for. There is a strong connection between her magazine assignments and her personal work, and many of her most famous images were created for or published in magazines. Her first published photographs appeared in Esquire in 1960, she was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966, and the Museum of Modern Art showed her work in 1964 and 1967. Arbus died in 1971. The next year her work became the first from an American photographer to be exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Retrospective exhibitions of her work (including Diane Arbus Revelations, the major touring show organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2003) have been shown throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan.