Diane Arbus’s Uncanny Aura

  • Claire RaymondEmail author


Diane Arbus’s photograph, Identical twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967, could stand as the icon of the photographic uncanny. Arbus’s photograph of these young girls inspires Stanley Kubrick to base the child ghosts in his horror film The Shining on Arbus’s photograph of the living girls. In unpacking Arbus’s uncanny photography, I move away from interpretations of the artist’s identity and instead read her photographs as self-aware purveyors of photography’s uncanny arc. By this I mean that Arbus’s photographs, regardless of whether she intended them to express such, work by a visual code that pulls the quotidian into the profound, “the inexhaustible openness” of the photograph. The doppelgänger, the double, as a central motif of the uncanny is an animating principle in Arbus’s camera work with twins and doubles. Arbus’s work is deeply ensconced in the place of the artist’s origin: most of the oeuvre is composed of photographs of inhabitants of New York City and New Jersey, the part of the world into which Arbus was born and where she lived her life. Through the relationship between place and image, the uncanny aura of her work emerges. This chapter excavates the uncanny in Arbus’s oeuvre.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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