Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Richard Avedon

The Beatles, 1967, Richard Avedon, one of the artist's best and most iconic images,
also probably the least representative of his work as a whole.
Richard Avedon Self-portrait, 1972
The most difficult task for a writer taking on a photographer is the decisions involving which of thousands of images to feature. I've encountered that difficulty with Anne Leibovitz (08-14-11), Fred Herzog (05-18-13), Walker Evans (06-22-12), and others. Unlike portrait artists (which usually means painters) whose body of work usually number in the low hundreds, photographers are so much more prolific, their numbers soar well into the thousands. Avedon was nothing if not prolific. His career began virtually the day he got out of high school in 1940 and ended some 64 years later as he suffered a brain hemorrhage while working on a job in San Antonio, Texas. In between were a lot of pretty girls, a multitude of famous faces, and even a few ugly old men.
Androgyny was often an intriguing feature in
Avedon's 1985 Calvin Klein Obsession photos.
Warhol wounded

Richard Avedon was a Jewish boy, born in New York City in 1923. His parents were first-generation immigrants from Russia. His father started a dress shop on the city's trendy Fifth Avenue, while his mother's family owned a dress factory back in the old country. Their younger daughter, Louise, was quite beautiful, and became her brother's first model. Thus the boy came by his acumen in the fashion industry quite honestly. During the war, Avedon served in the Merchant Marines taking identification photos of ship's crewmen. This early background can sometimes be seen in the straight-on, "no nonsense" poses used in many of his celebrity portraits. His photos of a young president, his wife, and children read like an intimate Kennedy family album, while his shots of Andy Warhol displaying his gunshot wounds (left) are as stark as those from a police blotter.

Avedon's many photos of
Marilyn Monroe are said to
have captured her soul.
Avedon's list of publications would be the dream of any aspiring photographer. You don't get much better than Harpers Bazaar, Life, Look, Vogue, Graphis, and Theater Arts magazines. For some fifteen years (1977-82) Avedon shot virtually every cover for Vogue. Besides his iconic Calvin Klein work, Avedon photographed fashions for Versace, hairstyles for Revlon, and blue jeans clinging to the nubile figure of fifteen-year-old Brook Shields. In the midst of all this he also shot patients in mental health hospitals, covered Vietnam War protests, and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He was there when the Berlin Wall crumbled in 1989. The Beatles (top) wasn't the only rock group Avedon exposed. His 1973 album cover photo featuring the Electric Light Orchestra featuring their navels disturbed many parents. His photos of hard rock group, Megadeth, gave new meaning to "long haired music."

Slaughterhouse Worker, 1979,
Richard Avedon
Yet it would be a mistake to leave the impression that Richard Avedon photographed only the rich, the beautiful, the famous, and the infamous. In 1979, the artist took his camera to the American west where he created a series of 125 large-scale portraits of miners, cowboys, mechanics, slaughterhouse workers, an many other unglamorous figures. The photos, some as large as three feet in height, became the basis of a best-selling book, in the American West. Some consider these images to be his best work.

No comments:

Post a Comment