Having originally worked as a fashion-photographer, in the late 1950s Arbus began to make more personal work, taking pictures of ‘things which nobody would see unless I photographed them’. She became known for her portraits of people whose appearance or lifestyle placed them at the fringe of conventional society.

In Arbus’ photographs, transvestites, giants and dwarves are presented sympathetically and with dignity, while supposedly ‘normal’ American citizens often appear eccentric or strange. She often used a flash, even in daylight, giving her images a theatrical quality, and placed her subjects in the centre of the frame, in a way that suggests their compliance and participation in the portrait.