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  • Catalogue Essay

    Renowned American photographer Diane Arbus once famously stated: “I tend to think of the act of photographing, generally speaking, as an adventure. My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” Equipped with an ever-growing curiosity about those whom society had relegated to the margins, be it for their physical appearance, mental state or mere profession, Arbus dedicated her career to depicting social anomalies. Her interest in those who strayed from the polished conformism of Post-War America began in 1960, the year she watched Tod Browning’s seminal movie from 1932, Freaks, which subverted the dynamic between normalcy and deviation. Throughout the 1960s Arbus continued to scout such locales as the New Jersey boardwalk and gradually earn the trust of stigmatized characters that varied from bearded ladies to midgets, twins, transsexuals, tattooed men, giants and, as seen in the current lot, strippers. The common denominator in all of Arbus’s subjects was the immediate understanding that the viewers were in the presence of an “other.” Indeed, Arbus herself has stated, “You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.” And yet, it is with a careful and empathetic vision that Arbus assiduously set out to explore her subjects’ alleged flaws.

    Stripper, Miss Sata Lyte, in her dressing room with glasses, Atlantic City, N.J., 1962, is one of several images that Arbus took of adult performers. Like her other portraits of similar subjects, as seen in Burlesque comedienne in her dressing room, Atlantic City, N.J., 1963 (lot 156), the performer in the current lot is not seen mid-act, which is how the public would have largely recognized her, but in the intimate confines of her dressing room. Like the performers in the other images, she is surrounded by her personal affects, be it her picture frames, makeup, hairbrushes, clothes, shoes or whatever else anchored her back to her “real” life. That is, she is depicted as an individual, not merely a social character. Indeed, in all of her images Arbus was careful not to subject her sitters to the same fetishizing eye that they had been previously subjected to and instead opted for a more nuanced, personalized depiction that was far more concerned with their underlying quirks and attributes. Unsurprisingly, Arbus had stated, “I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.” In the current lot, viewers are treated to a caring glimpse of a woman whose personality Arbus allowed to gently unfold in her presence.

    Lifetime prints by Diane Arbus are rare in the current market.

  • Artist Biography

    Diane Arbus

    American • 1923 - 1971

    Transgressing traditional boundaries, Diane Arbus is known for her highly desirable, groundbreaking portraiture taken primarily in the American Northeast during the late 1950s and 1960s. Famous for establishing strong personal relationships with her subjects, Arbus' evocative images capture them in varied levels of intimacy. Whether in their living rooms or on the street, their surreal beauty transcends the common distance found in documentary photography.

    Taken as a whole, Arbus' oeuvre presents the great diversity of American society — nudists, twins, babies, beauty queens and giants — while each distinct image brings the viewer into contact with an exceptional individual brought to light through Arbus' undeniable genius. 

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Stripper, Miss Sata Lyte, in her dressing room with glasses Atlantic City, N.J.

Gelatin silver print, printed 1963-1965.
7 7/8 x 7 3/4 in. (20 x 19.7 cm)
Stamped 'a diane arbus print', signed by Doon Arbus, Executor, in ink, copyright credit and reproduction limitation stamps on the verso. Accompanied by the letter of authentication from the Estate of Diane Arbus.

$35,000 - 55,000 

Sold for $87,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs
[email protected]

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York
[email protected]

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New York Auction 1 April 10am & 2pm