Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 – October 1, 2004) was an
Avedon capitalized on his
early success in fashion photography and expanded into the realm of
born in New York
City to a Jewish-Russian
family. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in
Bronx, where he worked on the school paper with James Baldwin.
Cover of Richard Avedon's In the
attending Columbia University
he started as a photographer for the Merchant Marines
in 1942, taking
identification pictures of the crewmen with his Rolleiflex
camera given to him by his father as a
going-away present. In 1944, he began working as an advertising
photographer for a department store, but was quickly discovered by
, the art
director for the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar
. Lillian Bassman
also promoted Avedon's
career at Harper's
In 1946, Avedon had set up his own studio and began providing
images for magazines including Vogue
. He soon became the chief photographer for
. Avedon did not conform to the standard
technique of taking fashion photographs, where models stood
emotionless and seemingly indifferent to the camera. Instead,
Avedon showed models full of emotion, smiling, laughing, and, many
times, in action.
In 1966, Avedon left Harper's Bazaar
to work as a staff
photographer for Vogue
magazine. He proceeded to become
the lead photographer of Vogue
and photographed most of
the covers from 1973 until Anna Wintour
became editor in chief in late 1988 . Notable among his fashion
advertisement photograph series are the recurring assignments for
, starting from the
spring/summer campaign 1980.
addition to his continuing fashion work, Avedon began to branch out
and photographed patients of mental hospitals, the Civil Rights Movement in 1963,
protesters of the Vietnam War, and later the fall of the Berlin Wall.
During this period Avedon also created two famous sets of portraits
of The Beatles
. The first, taken in mid
to late 1967, became one of the first major rock poster series, and
consisted of five striking psychedelic portraits of the group —
four heavily solarised individual colour portraits (solarisation of
prints by his assistant, Gideon Lewin, retouching by Bob Bishop
) and a black-and-white group
portrait taken with a Rolleiflex camera and a normal Planar lens
. The next year he photographed the
much more restrained portraits that were included with The Beatles
in 1968. Among the many
other rock bands photographed by Avedon, in 1973 he shot Electric Light Orchestra
the members exposing their bellybuttons for recording, On the Third Day
Avedon was always interested in how portraiture captures the
personality and soul of its subject. As his reputation as a
photographer became widely known, he brought in many famous faces
to his studio and photographed them with a large-format 8x10
. His portraits are easily
distinguished by their minimalist style, where the person is
looking squarely in the camera, posed in front of a sheer white
background. Avedon would at times evoke reactions from his portrait
subjects by guiding them into uncomfortable areas of discussion or
asking them psychologically probing questions. Through these means
he would produce images revealing aspects of his subject's
character and personality that were not typically captured by
He is also distinguished by his large prints, sometimes measuring
over three feet in height. His large-format portrait work of
drifters, miners, cowboys and others from the western United States
became a best-selling book and traveling exhibit entitled In
the American West
, and is regarded as an important hallmark in
20th Century portrait photography, and by some as Avedon's
. Commissioned by the
Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, it was a six-year project
Avedon embarked on in 1979, that produced 125 portraits of people
in the American west who caught Avedon's eye.
Avedon was drawn to working people such as miners and oil field
workers in their soiled work clothes, unemployed drifters, and
teenagers growing up in the West circa 1979-84. When first
published and exhibited, In the American West
criticized for showing what some considered to be a disparaging
view of America. Avedon was also lauded for treating his subjects
with the attention and dignity usually reserved for the politically
powerful and celebrities. Laura Wilson
served as Avedon's
assistant during the creation of In the American West
in 2003 published a photo book documenting the experiences,
Avedon at Work, In the American West.
Avedon became the first staff photographer for The New Yorker
in 1992 . He has won many
awards for his photography, including the International Center of
Photography Master of Photography Award in 1993, the Prix Nadar
in 1994 for his photobook
, and the Royal Photographic Society 150th
Anniversary Medal in 2003.
In 1944, Avedon married Dorcas Nowell, who later became a model and
was known professionally as Doe Avedon. Nowell and Avedon divorced
after five years of marriage. In 1951, he married Evelyn Franklin;
she died on March 13, 2004.;their marriage produced one son, an
author and authority on Tibet
Martial arts movie
star Loren Avedon
is the nephew of Richard
October 1, 2004,
Avedon died of a brain
hemorrhage in San Antonio, Texas, while shooting an assignment for The New Yorker.
At the time of
his death, he was also working on a new project titled
to focus on the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential
Hollywood presented a fictional account of his early career
in the 1957 musical Funny Face,
starring Fred Astaire as the fashion
photographer "Dick Avery."
Avedon supplied some of the still
photographs used in the production, including its most famous
single image: an intentionally overexposed close-up of Audrey Hepburn
's face in which only her
famous features - her eyes, her eyebrows, and her mouth - are
Hepburn was Avedon's muse in the 1950s and 60s, and he went so far
as to say "I am, and forever will be, devastated by the gift of
Audrey Hepburn before my camera. I cannot lift her to greater
heights. She is already there. I can only record. I cannot
interpret her. There is no going further than who she is. She has
achieved in herself her ultimate portrait."
- Marella Agnelli, Italian
- Carmen Mayrink Veiga, Brazilian socialite (Vogue's 10 best
- Dovima with Elephants, 1955
- Marilyn Monroe, actress,
- Homage to Munkacsi, Carmen, coat by Cardin, Paris
- Dwight David
Eisenhower, President of the United States, 1964
- The Beatles, 1967
- Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory, New York
- Sly Stone (cover of Fresh
- Ronald Fischer, beekeeper, 1981
- Nastassja Kinski and the
- Pile of beautiful people, Versace campaign 1982.
Books by Richard Avedon
- Observations, 1959. A collaborative book with Truman Capote containing portraits of many
famous people of the twentieth century, including Pablo Picasso, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Mae West.
- Nothing Personal, 1964. A collaborative book with
- Alice in Wonderland, 1973, co-authored with Doon Arbus.
- Portraits, 1976
- Portraits 1947-1977, 1978
- In the American West, 1985
- An Autobiography, 1993. Contains 50 years of images
arranged to tell Avedon's life story. Photos include celebrities
such as Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Andy
Warhol, and Avedon's parents.
- Evidence, 1994. More than 600 images encompassing
Avedon's fashion photographs, portraiture, journalistic shots,
sketches, snapshots, and contact sheets. However, despite
containing many images, the book focuses more on the essays and
text about Avedon instead of being fully based on visuals.
- The Sixties, 1999, co-authored with Doon Arbus.
Contains images of many famous figures such as Janis Joplin, Jimi
Hendrix, and Twiggy.
- Made in France, 2001. A retrospective of Avedon's
fashion portraiture from the 1950s. The book is expensive due to
the images being printed on tritone
- Richard Avedon Portraits' 2002. 50 black and white
images of celebrities and subjects from his In The American
West project. Its release coincided with an exhibition of
the work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Woman in the Mirror. 2005, with an essay by Anne
- Performance. 2008, with an essay by John Lahr.
- Portraits of Power. 2008, edited by Paul Roth with an
essay by Renata Adler. Coincides with an
exhibition of political work at the Corcoran Gallery
of Art in Washington DC.
In popular culture
- Staff. "Richard Avedon", The Daily
Telegraph, October 2, 2004. Accessed September 14, 2009.
"He also edited the school magazine at DeWitt Clinton High, on
which the black American writer James Baldwin was literary
- Vogue July 1973
- Vogue October 1988
- PBS American Masters, Richard Avedon: Darkness and
Light, Directed by Helen Whitney, 1995
- Women's Wear Daily, October 2004.
- The Buddha's Art of Healing: Tibetan Paintings
Rediscovered, John Avedon, Rizzoli, 1998
- Exploring the Mysteries of Tibetan Medicine, John
Avedon, The New York Times Magazine, January 11, 1981.
- Karney, Robyn. A Star Danced: The Life of Audrey
Hepburn, Bloomsbury. London: 1993