In 1971 Norman Mailer said that “giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.” Lo and behold: Child With Hand Grenade. Even before her suicide that year, Arbus’ magnificent body of work evoked criticism and suspicion of exploitation. She was drawn to the so-called deviants, outsiders, marginalized people, glamorous transvestites, graceful giants, disturbed-looking children, circus performers and of course, twins and subjects with other birth eccentricities. Had she lived, Arbus would have been 89 years old today. In tribute, we’d like to present you with this brief survey of some of the most controversial photographers, contemporary and of recent yesteryear.
Arbus was a curious case. She was reportedly concerned that she became known for photographing “freaks.” Then again, she once said this: “Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.” Reconcile that.