Review: Diane Arbus, In the Beginning at the Hayward Gallery

If you’re a dedicated follower of photography, you’ve almost certainly heard of Diane Arbus, the American portrait photographer who rose to prominence in the second half of the 20th century, thanks to her groundbreaking work with communities that were typically under-represented. Now, the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery is shining a light on the early years of her career with Diane Arbus: In The Beginning (to 6 May).

The exhibition’s major selling point is that it includes approximately 50 photographs that have never been shown in Europe, all on loan from the Diane Arbus Archive at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each shot (most printed by Arbus herself) is displayed simply and uniformly with little explanation or ornamentation, allowing penty of room to view and consider: In The Beginning‘s entire focus is on the photographs and nothing else.

Such simple presentation allows visitors to really get to know Arbus’ world at that time (1956 to 1962), which was the hidden or rejected lives being lived across New York City. As Arbus said herself, ‘I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.’

These images are subtle and enchanting, quiet but proud. After an hour of studying this collection, you’ll feel like you just briefly became a part of the lives of these lesser-known New Yorkers – just like Diane Arbus did.
Diane Arbus In the Beginning photography exhibition Hayward Gallery southbank centre london
Diane Arbus: In the Beginning is open until 6 May 2019
Adult £14; 12-16 £6.75; under-12s free
Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX
020-3879 9555 | www.southbankcentre.co.uk

If you’re in the area, don’t miss this summer’s Underbelly Festival on the South Bank. If you’d rather go to galleries than shows, read our review of Van Gogh and Britain at Tate Britain.

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