One of our favourite photographers, Richard Avedon, is best known for his work in the fashion world and for the reinvention of the genre of photographic portraiture. Through his minimalistic photography, we are actually able to look a little closer into the lives and hearts of some of the famous, such as: Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan, Bjork, The Beatles, Malcolm X, Dalai Lama, Cher, Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn, Steve McQueen, plus a number of the US presidents (Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, John Kennedy or Barrack Obama). Click continue for more on Richard Avedon.
He was born in New York City in 1923 and by the age of 17, he’d drop out of high school and join the merchant marine’s photographic section, taking personnel identification photos. Upon his return in 1944, he started taking photographs for different department stores, where he got noticed by an art director working with Harper’s Bazaar.
After several years of capturing moments of the NY life, he then got promoted to photographing models wearing the latest fashions in the cities around the world. What differentiated Avedon from his predecessors was that he liked shooting clothes in movement. His models were no longer statues, they weren’t supposed to take those long poses, while waiting for the photographer to capture That moment. On the contrary, as Avedon seemed to like jumping around while taking photos of the models, they were expected to do the same. He loved telling a story with his photos.
As his notoriety grew, he could start focusing on what he loved most, his portraiture work. With more and more access to some of the most private names, he managed to capture their vulnerability and humanity in what will become its trademark photography. In contrast to his fashion related work, the portraits were very minimal and still, all against a white background, no props, no nothing. He did however concentrate on capturing a look or an expression that could tell a story or something of sorts.
Beside the beautiful and the famous, in 1969, he also shot a series of Vietnam War portraits that included the Chicago Seven, American soldiers and Vietnamese napalm victims. His photography interests basically had no limitations.
After 20 years at Harper’s Bazaar, he moved on to work with Vogue, where he continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently. Later on, he would do continue to do work for both magazines. In the same time, he also collaborated on many books of portraits – such as Observations, Nothing Personal, Portraits, Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977, In The American West, An Autobiography – and did lots of exhibitions.
In 1992, he became the first staff photographer for The New Yorker and two years later the Whitney Museum brought together fifty years of his work in the retrospective, “Richard Avedon: Evidence”. In 2003, he received a national arts award for lifetime achievement.
Below you may find a selection of his portraiture work that we put together with great difficulty! There were too many amazing works to choose from, but in the end we had to choose. Here they are, we hope you’ll enjoy them!
“Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me. My concern is… the human predicament; only what I consider the human predicament may simply be my own.”