Epic Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon, one of the richest, most celebrated and controversial photographers in the world, injected fashion stills with such movement and life that had never existed before. Fashion photography would still be flat and models would rigidly pose if it hasn’t been for his innovative and creative point of view.

“When you are an artist you have to nurture the things that all the people discard”.

Born in 1923, Avedon studied in the Design Laboratory. Being a staff photographer of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue at first, he managed to work with the fashion legends of that era namely Diana Vreeland, Alexey Brodovitch and Carmel Snow. His photographic lens captured the graceful movement, flowing fabrics and energy of stunning fashion moments. Though a control freak and a perfect “director” of fashion stories, Avedon also loved the constant surprise of people’s movements and expressions. His photographs in motion are famous.

 Twiggy, 1968Marilyn Monroe, 1957

 ”Fashion is one of the richest expressions of human’s desires, ambitions, needs and insecurities. What we wear is an indication of the sense of ourselves”

 Dovima for Dior, 1955
Coco Chanel, 1958

Being the rebel of the fashion industry and using his work, Avedon attacked to the mass media. He was the first to criticize the glamorous world of beauty and fashion. In addition, he forced the public to change the way of thinking about celebrities by catching with his camera precious dramatic and melancholic expressions of various celebrities such as the sex symbol Marilyn Monroe.

Brigitte Bardot, 1959

In 1957, he was the visual consultant for the movie “Funny Face”, starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. In fact Hepburn was Avedon’s muse in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He used to say about her: “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”.

Stefanie Seymour in Chanel, 1994
Audrey Hepburn, 1967

Avedon traveled from commerce to art and back again. The innovative artist imbued all his photographs with realism and fantasy making them timeless pieces of art. Politically concerned, he did much of reportage photography but as he said “I wanted to be creator, not an observer”.

The year of his death (2004) Richard Avedon Foundation was established. Over 16 books and 13 exhibitions have been devoted to his work while 18 museums have included Avedon’s photographs in their collections.

Until the 27th of July Gagosian Gallery of New York presents the exhibition “Richard Avedon: Murals and Portraits”. Between 1969 and 1971, Avedon began to create four large photographic murals in order to depict the revolutionary spirit of the late 60’s. His mural groupings were consisted of emblematic figures such as: Andy Warhol with the stars of “The Factory”, political radicals, the Beat generation’s poet Allen Ginsberg and the Mission Council, a group of officials who governed the United States’ participation in the Vietnam War.

The exhibition catalogue published by Gagosian Gallery and Abrams contains murals, portraits, archival material and Avedon’s diaries and correspondence. In the black and white pages of this wonderful book, we will once again explore Avedon’s political activism and penetrating incursions into the history.

From the intimate portraits and fashion photographs to the reportage photos, Richard Avedon gave photography a heritage of exquisite pieces of art which have defined our sense of style and have become food for inspiration of various artists. As Irving Penn once said of Avedon: “I stand in awe of Avedon. For scope and magnitude, he’s the greatest of fashion photographers. He’s a seismograph.”

Maria Tzirita
Photo courtesy: Moma and Time

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