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Artists Richard Avedon
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Richard Avedon

American Photographer

Movements and Styles: Modern Photography, Straight Photography, Documentary Photography, Fashion Photography

Born: May 15, 1923 - New York City, New York

Died: October 1, 2004 - San Antonio, Texas

Richard Avedon Timeline

Quotes

"My job was to do identity photographs. I must have taken pictures of one hundred thousand faces before it occurred to me I was becoming a photographer."
Richard Avedon
"My photographs don't go below the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues."
Richard Avedon
"All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."
Richard Avedon
"I think I do photograph what I'm afraid of, I think I have photographed what I was afraid of. Things I couldn't deal with, without the camera. My father's death, madness, and when I was young, women."
Richard Avedon
"One of the most powerful parts about movement, is that it's a constant surprise. You don't know what the fabric is going to do, what the hair is going to do, you can control it to a certain degree and then there's a surprise."
Richard Avedon
"When I photograph movement, I have to anticipate that by the time it's happened, it's too late to photograph it."
Richard Avedon
"It's just strange to me that anyone would ever think that a work of art shouldn't be disturbing, or shouldn't be invasive. I mean, that's the property of a work of art, that's the arena of a work of art is to disturb, to make you think, to make you feel."
Richard Avedon
"It's not the camera that makes a good picture, but the eye and the mind of the photographer."
Richard Avedon
"Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me."
Richard Avedon

"A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion."

Richard Avedon Signature

Synopsis

In a gesture of supreme, youthful confidence, Richard Avedon did away with the standard trope of statue-like, frozen-in-time models of conventional fashion photography. Instead the exuberant young photographer who legendarily never stood still, enlivened his models and, most importantly, showed their human side, flaws and all. He is probably best known, however, for his arresting, black-and-white and often large-format portraits of people, whether celebrities or unknowns, which are as much psychological studies as physical ones. Ranging between the commercial work he did as a fashion photographer and the ground-breaking fine art portraiture, the breadth and creativity of Avedon's body of work has made him one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. His photographs, claimed the New York Times, "helped define America's image of style and beauty and culture" since the 1950s. While he didn't design the clothes that Veruschka or Twiggy or Brooke Shields wore, he created innovative contexts for both model and wearer, fashioning visually arresting, memorable images that altered the course of many facets of American culture.

Key Ideas

Avedon's style of fashion photography brought a refreshing, humanistic quality to the genre. Avedon took models that seemed to be somewhat frozen in time and gave them vigor, personalities, and even flaws. There is often an underlying narrative as he realized that fashion photography wasn't simply about selling a product, but rather it was the overall spirit of the image that the viewer/consumer desired.
Avedon's mastery of portraiture had as much to do with his rapport with his subjects as his technical ability or sense of aesthetics. His customary practice was to establish an intimacy between himself and his sitter, gaining a subject's trust became an art form in itself for Avedon. His deeply candid, emotive portraits, often photographed and printed in large format, helped reconfigure photography as an expressive art form.
Avedon's portraits are most often unsettling and in many cases deeply disturbing. His subjects take up much of the composition, sometimes even exceeding its boundaries and thus seeming inexplicably cropped. The effect of the close-up is not only to provide details, including physical imperfections, but to also make the viewer feel as if they are intruding into the sitter's private, personal space. Additionally, Avedon's signature white backgrounds offer no context; there is no story but that of the face and body of the subject. Usually the portraits are black-and-white, which also seems less flattering or forgiving. In Avedon's view, color creates an unwanted distraction from the frank visual scrutiny of a sitter.

Biography

Richard Avedon Photo

Childhood

Born in New York City, Richard Avedon, always known by family and friends as "Dick," was the son of Russian-Jewish parents, Jacob and Anna Avedon. His exposure to fashion and photography began at an early age. Since his father owned a women's specialty clothing store on Fifth Avenue, he was often present when representatives from upscale fashion magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and Vogue visited each month to discuss couture.

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Richard Avedon Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Richard Avedon
Interactive chart with Richard Avedon's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Martin MunkacsiMartin Munkacsi
Henri Cartier-BressonHenri Cartier-Bresson

Personal Contacts

Alexey BrodovitchAlexey Brodovitch
Diane ArbusDiane Arbus

Movements

Modern PhotographyModern Photography

Influences on Artist
Richard Avedon
Richard Avedon
Years Worked: 1944 - 2004
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Cindy ShermanCindy Sherman
Steven MeiselSteven Meisel
Annie LeibovitzAnnie Leibovitz
Herb RittsHerb Ritts

Personal Contacts

Diane ArbusDiane Arbus

Movements

Modern PhotographyModern Photography

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Content compiled and written by Jackie Meade

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jackie Meade
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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