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Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper


Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Forrest Soper Forrest Soper selects Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs by Diane Arbus as Book of the Week.
Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs 
 By Diane Arbus. Aperture and the 
Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018.
Forrest Soper selects Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs by Diane Arbus from Aperture and the Smithsonian American Art Museum as Book of the Week.

"The photobook world is plagued by a myriad of posthumous publications by notable photographers. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these publications, as their educational value cannot be understated, many seem cold, distant, and detached. Exhaustive catalogs with pages of academic text place so much importance on formality that the artistic essence of the original photographs seems distilled — almost as if the artist’s original vision had been forgotten. At the very least, few of these publications seem to propel the evolution of the photobook genre.

An Exception can be made for Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs. Published alongside an exhibition of the same name at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, this book highlights one of the most important photographic publications ever made.

During her lifetime, A box of ten photographs was the only physical collection of her work that Diane Arbus personally made for sale. The portfolios were housed in a plexiglass box and contained ten prints, each interlaced with vellum sheets upon which extended hand-written titles for the subsequent photographs were written. Intended to be printed in an edition of fifty, Arbus only completed prints for eight of the portfolios, of which only four had been sold, prior to her death. The subject of the recent Aperture publication focuses on edition #5, sold to Bea Feitler, which included an additional eleventh photograph.

Published as a book for the first time, A box of ten photographs is so beautifully reproduced that it is only one small step below a professionally made facsimile of the original portfolio. The printing quality is impeccable, and the attention to detail in the handwritten titles is commendable. Unless you have access to authentic gelatin silver prints, the reproductions in this book are the closest you can get to viewing Arbus’ work as it was originally intended.

After the initial reproductions, a wonderful illustrated essay by the curator John P. Jacob thoroughly discusses the importance and history of this body of work.

At the end of the day, there is nothing I can say about Arbus that has not already been said. Every living photographer working as an artist is indebted to her in some way. Her work has become legendary and her life has transcended into myth. Her images are forever ingrained in our collective memories and publications of her work can be found in libraries across the globe.

I have many books on Diane Arbus in my library, but A box of ten photographs is the first publication that feels like it was made by the artist herself." — Forrest Soper

Purchase Book

Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs By Diane Arbus. Aperture and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018.
Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs By Diane Arbus. Aperture and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018.


Forrest Soper is an artist and photographer based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forrest is the editor of photo-eye Blog, a former photochemical lab technician at Bostick & Sullivan, and a graduate of the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

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