The late Richard Avedon was best known for his photography work, particularly in the fashion industry. Shooting for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, Avedon produced minimalist portraits showcasing raw emotion, revolutionising the norms of the fashion photography.
After encountering a photoshoot on Fifth Avenue, New York, as a child, Avedon was taken by the beauty and significance of fashion photography. Biography.com quotes, “In front of the Plaza Hotel, I saw a bald man with a camera posing a very beautiful woman against a tree. He lifted his head, adjusted her dress a little bit and took some photographs. Later, I saw the picture in Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t understand why he’d taken her against that tree until I got to Paris a few years later: the tree in front of the Plaza had that same peeling bark you see all over the Champs-Elysees.”
Avedon began to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, art director of Harper’s Bazaar and was soon hired as a staff photographer for the magazine. He saw his career taken to Paris to cover runway shows and to photograph models wearing the new fashions out in the city itself.
Within years he had photographed portraits of some of the well-known Hollywood names, his dying father and his lovers.
Avedon refused to flatter his models, with many portraits highlighting unappealing elements of the face such as liver spots and warts. However, capturing people at their most vulnerable was what people treasured most.
The NY Times reports that Avedon’s passion stems from his fascination with faces telling infinite stories. Stories that landscapes and objects cannot tell. Envelope pusher and risk-taker alike, he seeked an escape from the existent norms of reality and relied on extravagance, exceeding it in most cases.
Being an inspiration for many, including Fred Astaire, Avedon had asked his experiences with homosexuality to be revealed in his biography, ‘Something Personal’. Keeping his past private, he didn’t wish for his homosexuality to define him, although his experiences with famous novelist James Baldwin, and decade-long affair with Mike Nichols are significant parts of his life.
Avedon’s success has been a vital piece in the puzzle that is art and fashion. He was a man of many portraits, revealing different shades of himself and others to the world. And as his most famous saying goes; “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”