Book: Diane Arbus: A Biography

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—and Marvin Israel was designing it and James Baldwin, his high-school classmate, was writing the text. It would deal with America after John Kennedy’s assassination—deal with the loneliness and violence in the country, deal with the rise of civil rights. Avedon’s photographs would range from horrific blurred when Aperture asked him to design Model’s book of photographs.

Model worried about Diane’s need to live in a constant state of euphoria. “She had to be flying—and sometimes she was, but sometimes she wasn’t. She became so depressed she’d rub her hand back and forth across my table and her voice was like a five-year-old girl’s.”

Evsa Model worried about his wife’s shifting moods; after being with Diane for several hours she would be drained. He didn’t like her spending so much time with Diane—he felt she was being exploited. To which Model would argue that such a thing didn’t exist. “Let me be exploited,” she would cry.

For the past two years Diane had been scribbling encouraging notes to the young pacifist Paul Salstrom, who was serving time in prison for refusing to register for the draft. He would write back, he says, “telling her of my plans to live off the land—to buy a farm, which I eventually did. I wanted so Ben Fernandez replaced her. Later he and Diane covered parades together and she advised him on his Guggenheim application.

One of Diane’s students at Parsons, Paula Hutsinger (now a herbalist in Soho), recalls that “Diane was a terrific teacher. She didn’t tell you to read the Jansen book of art history. Instead she took us to the Met and made us really look at objects—Greek statues, parade armor, Persian rugs, designs full of animals, Egyptian jewelry—everything and anything to make us really see and notice and collect images with our eyes.”

“In another class,” Paula continues, “she paired us off. We took portraits of each other. I took one of Michael Flannigan which she loved because I’d posed him on his spool bed; that made it ‘more revealing and personal,’ she said.” She always took note of a person’s personal possessions in her own photographs—the balloons in the transvestite’s bedroom, the geegaws in the wealthy matron’s home. She once planned to photograph John Putnam’s one-room apartment on Jane Street because it was crammed with his “artistic hang-ups”: drawing board, tape recorder, paints, hundreds of tiny tin soldiers, intricate sculptures, piles of rare books.

At Parsons, Diane brought books for the students to go over, such as Erich Salomon’s enduring portraits of 1930s German politicos and tycoons. Salomon was called “the Houdini of photography”—his lively, His first: Observations, with text by Truman Capote.

In 1979 they met in Model’s black apartment to go over possible layouts. “I was frankly very apprehensive,” Model says. For a while they just stared at each other in silence, and then Model remarked, “Until now I’ve always been afraid of you, Marvin.” And he said nothing for a moment and then he answered, “This is ridiculous. I’ve always been afraid of you.” And after that, Model said, “we got along all right.”

She often professed ignorance about the technical side of photography. She once told a class she was never sure about loading a camera, confiding that she was always afraid she might insert a roll of fresh film incorrectly into the winding sprocket.

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