Today is the birthday of American photographer, Richard Avedon, so I thought I would give you a brief overview of Richard Avedon just in case you are not familiar with his work.
I admit, I never really paid attention to fashion photography, until recently. Naturally, as part of this “discovery”, I began seeking out Avedon’s images to study. Avedon is highly regarded for his work in the fashion industry. He was a photographer for Harper’s Bazaar (1945-1965) and Vogue (1966-1990) so you can readily find his work if you search. I find myself appreciating his clean, elegant compositions, rich tonal range, ... but, usually, his images include a surprising twist. The iconic photograph, “Dovima with Elephants” comes to mind. (Click HERE to see the image on MoMA’s website.) Who would think of featuring a famous model, wearing a Dior evening gown, positioned between two elephants? Richard Avedon, that’s who.
In 1992, Avedon joined The New Yorker as the publication’s first staff photographer. And, even though Avedon worked for magazine publications for decades, he also ran a successful studio with images appearing in many magazines. His commercial work also included well-known ad campaigns and portraits. His portrait work was known for its signature minimalist style and clean, white background. Somehow, he evoked emotions and reactions from the subjects, and that skill made his portraits stand apart from anyone else.
I have admired his work visually, so now I want to learn more about the photographer and his photographic process. Boy, have I been enjoying reading and learning more. The large format camera and large, sharp, images make me want to continue learning about the process he employed. But, that will be in the future. For now, I thought I might share a few bits of trivia with you to celebrate Avedon’s birthday.
FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVEDON
Richard Avedon’s parents were both involved in the fashion business. His mother was from a family of dress manufacturers and his father owned a clothing store in New York City. Doesn’t it seem like the circle was completed with him being a noted fashion photographer?
According to The Richard Avedon Foundation page, criticism regarding his collaboration with models of color was the catalyst for Avedon’s departure from Harper’s Bazaar in 1965.
The 1957 movie, Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire, is a musical, romantic, comedy. Astaire plays the “Dick Avery” character in the film, and that character was loosely based on Avedon. Avedon even provided some of the photographs for the film and was the creator of the portrait of Audrey Hepburn that is associated with the movie.
In 1979, Avedon was commissioned to complete a project for the Amon Carter Museum. This project became known as In the American West. The project lasted five years, there were over 750 people photographed, around 17,000 sheets of large format, 8 x 10 film was exposed, and the result was one of Avedon’s most notable bodies of work.
I was fortunate to visit the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas recently. I specifically visited the Museum when the In the American West exhibit was on display. The very first thing that made an impression on me was the massive size of the photographs. These images are - well, I think the term is “larger than life”. Apparently, the printing process was quite involved, as you might imagine. The printing alone lasted nine months and an estimated 68,000 square feet of paper was used in the process. In my opinion, the exhibit is a “must see” for anyone who appreciates his work.
I am curious. Do you have a favorite work by Richard Avedon? It’s hard to choose, isn’t it?