This exhibition of nearly 100 photographs redefines the achievement of one of the most prominent and influential artists of the 20th century.

The exhibition takes an in-depth look at the formative first half of Diane Arbus’ career, from 1956 to 1962, when the American master developed the direct, psychologically acute style for which she later became so widely celebrated. This solo show includes some fifty photographs which have never been shown in Europe.

Arbus discovered the majority of her subjects in New York City where she created some of the most compelling photographs in the history of post-war photography. She depicted a cross-section of urban life, including portraits of couples and children, solitary city dwellers, carnival performers, strippers, and transvestites.

The exhibition chronicles an extraordinarily prolific period in the artist’s career. Nearly half the photographs that Arbus printed during her lifetime were produced during these early years, yet much of this work remains little known. The exhibition brings to light many haunting works such as Boy stepping off the curb, NYC (1957–58); The Backwards Man in his hotel room, NYC 1961; and Jack Dracula at a bar, New London, Conn. (1961).

Whereas many other photographers working at the time, such as Walker Evans, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, would often play the role of passive observer or even conceal their cameras, Arbus’ sympathetic images are fuelled by the intensity of direct personal encounters with her subjects. This exchange on both sides of the camera – between seeing and being seen – raises existential questions that ultimately transmit themselves onto the viewer.

Hayward Gallery

Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, Greater London, SE1 8XX

020 7960 4200


Opening times

Hayward Gallery opening times
11am – 7pm every day except Tuesdays when the gallery is closed.
Late night opening on Thursdays until 9pm.

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