Arts / ‘Landmark’ exhibition to showcase work by photographer Diane Arbus

Photograph of Diane Arbus around 1968 © Photo: Roz Kelly / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images. Photo credit © The Estate of Diane Arbus

WORK by influential photographer Diane Arbus is set to go on show at the Shetland Museum later this year.

The exhibition, which has been described as “landmark”, will be held from 19 August to 12 November in Da Gadderie.

Shetland Museum and Archives is the most northerly venue in the UK for the touring exhibition, presented in partnership with Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, as well as the ARTIST ROOMS project.

Born in New York in 1923, Arbus is considered one of the great figures of American photography, pioneering a bold and original approach which bridged the gap between documentary photography and fine art.

This exhibition will include many of the artist’s most iconic portraits, and features more than thirty black and white photographs spanning her career from the mid-1950s until her death in 1971.

Arbus began photographing in the 1940s, and her first published image appeared in Esquire magazine in 1960.


Over the next ten years she documented the lives, appearances and emotions of people, celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Through her commitment to ‘photograph everybody’, Arbus was drawn to marginalised people and communities, and the sub-cultures of post-war American society.

Her psychologically acute images of couples, children, circus performers, drag artists, suburban families and celebrities often reveal a difference between how people want to be perceived by others, and how they appear.

Diane Arbus – A young man and his pregnant wife in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965. Photo: ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland © The Estate of Diane Arbus.

The exhibition begins with Arbus’ early works taken with a 35mm camera, and features a series of compelling portraits in the distinctive square format she began using in 1962, made famous through such images as Identical twins, Roselle, N.J. 1966.

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A highlight within the exhibition is the presentation of A box of ten photographs 1969-71, a rare portfolio of original prints which Arbus produced shortly before her death in 1971.

Shetland Amenity Trust chief executive Hazel Sutherland said it was a “real honour” to welcome this exhibition to Shetland.

“Arbus was a pioneer of social documentary photography, and her work is bold and inspiring, driven by a fascination for the diversity of human life,” she said.

“We are delighted that Shetland Museum has been chosen by ARTIST ROOMS, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland as one of the UK partners for this prestigious tour.”

There will also be a series of gallery talks and workshops for adults and young people to accompany the exhibition.

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