Hubert’s Freaks by Gregory Gibson

Hubert's Freaks
Hubert's Freaks

Recommended by Phil Weir

If you’re looking for a quirky companion piece to get you in the mood for the exhibition of Diane Arbus photos at Kirkcaldy Galleries in February (see centre-page spread in last week’s FFP), then this is it.

Arbus, who took her own life in 1971 while still in her 40s, operated mainly in New York and specialised in taking raw, eerie, highly distinctive black and white portraits of those who live on the margins of society, i.e. circus freaks (hence the title of this book).

Hubert’s was a famous Times Square freak show where Arbus found many of her subjects in the 50s.

In the early 70s, rare-book buff Bob Langmuir bought a trove of memorabilia from the establishment, unaware it contained a cache of Arbus material. Gibson’s book centres on the antiquarian’s battle to get his find recognised by the art world and the Arbus estate, while contrasting the troubled personalities of photographer and book collector.

Non-fiction this may be, but the subject matter and the author’s suspenseful style makes for a gripping and Gothic read.