Book: Diane Arbus: A Biography

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After work she and the Petersons did “touristy” things. They’d wander through the markets and shops in Kingston and at one of the shops Diane chose an album encrusted with shells. “I think I’ll buy this for Marvin,” she said. She wrote him a letter every day.

In the evenings they might go out to a nightclub. “Diane would put on an Yves Saint-Laurent dress and look smashing.” Usually she wore her “uniform” of cut-off jeans and sandals. She’d got very tan and her hair was cropped short as a boy’s.

At the end of their stay Diane and Pat went back to the market and came upon a little shop “where an artist had concocted these exquisite hand-painted crowns. He only had two left. We bought them, but we could tell he didn’t want to part with them both—his face screwed up with emotion as he packed them very tenderly for us in tissue paper. The next morning, driving to the airport, I had my crown on my lap (I still have it at home, and every time I see it I think of Diane). Suddenly I looked across at Diane and asked, ‘Where’s your crown?’ and she said, ‘I gave it back to the artist.’ Just the way she said it moved me to tears.”

When the Petersons, Diane, and Amy got back to New York, Allan was at the air terminal with his girlfriend, Mariclare Costello, to meet them. A few days later Diane wrote to the Petersons, telling them “how much the trip to Jamaica had meant to her and how wonderful we’d been to her and Amy and how she considered us her ‘family’ now.

“She wanted us to choose one of her photographs from the upcoming show at the museum and I said, ‘Sure,’ but I forgot, and a couple of weeks later Diane phoned and said, ‘You want one of my pictures, don’t you?’ She seemed hurt that I hadn’t chosen one immediately. So I ran over to the Charles Street house that very afternoon and I chose one of the nudist family and Diane signed it in her childish scrawl, ‘to Gus and Pat, love Diane Arbus.’ ”

“New Documents,” the photography exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, which opened March 6, 1967, was probably the high point of Diane’s life. who was there, says “Diane looked like an angel in the midst of a huge crowd.” She never stopped floating. Eventually she came drifting over to Kelly. “I’d like to photograph you,” she murmured. After a few moments she melted away in another direction. And much later a museum photographer captured her materializing ghost like from around a wall. She can be seen observing her brother Howard talking with Allan and Mariclare Costello.

Shortly after the opening the Bob Meserveys got a postcard emblazoned with Diane’s portrait of the identical twins. The message read: “Get to the Museum of Modern Art… Everything here is overwhelming… I go from laughter to tears.”

“For a while, she thought it was the greatest thing that had ever Pat Peterson says that when the special fashion issue was published in May 1967, it was “quite controversial. We got a lot of negative mail because Diane’s images were so strong.”

Diane credited this first issue to the Arbus studio. But her next two issues of children’s fashion, done in 1969 and 1970, she credited to herself. (All three have since become collectors’ items.)

Kelly (who later played the Fonz’s girl on TV) used to dress up in outrageous costumes and wigs and take kitschy self-portraits in an effort to “find” her true image. In 1968 Diane took a series of portraits of Kelly posing à la Marilyn Monroe. And Kelly took pictures of Diane staring out the window of the 42nd Street automat. She is holding onto her camera and flash. “(She looked as if she was on a cloud and about to take off,” Kelly said. “She took off alright [after that] I never saw her again.”)

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