Thursday, 20 June 2013

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon - May 1923 - October 2004

Richard Avedon was an American fashion and portrait photographer born in New York City.  His interest in photography came about when he joined his local YMHA (young men's hebrew association) camera club and his first camera was the family Kodak Box Brownie.

He used photography to escape his personal life where his father was a strict disciplinarian.  He used his younger sister Louise as a model as she was very beautiful.  Louise struggled in her teenage years and was given psychiatric treatment she was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia.  These early influences of fashion and family shaped his life and career through his love of capturing the tragic beauty in an image.

Tilda Swinton

In 1944 Avedon began working as an advertising photographer for a deoartment store but was quickly discovered by Alexey Brodovitch, who was the Art Director of Harper's Bazaar.  Lilian Bassman also promoted Avedon's career at Harpers and in 1945 his images started appearing in Junior Bazaar and a year later in Bazaar itself.

By 1946 Avedon had set up his own studio and was providing images to magazines such as Vogue and Life.  He then progressed to Chief Photographer at Bazaar.  In 1952 he became Staff Editor and Photographer for Theatre Arts Magazine.  Avedon liked to show his fashion models full of emotion, smiling, laughing and many times in action.  Towards the end of the 50s he became dissatisfied with daylight photography and open air locations and turned to studio photography using strobe lighting.

He has photographed campaigns for Gianni Versace, Calvin Klein and Revlon amongst others and he has also shot for numerous rock bands including The Beatles and ELO.

Paul McCartney

Avedon was always interested in how portraiture captures the personality of the subject.  As his reputation as a photographer grew, he brought in numerous famous faces to his studio and photographed them with his large format camera, these included Buster Keaton, Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol.  His portraits are immediately recognisable by their minimalist style, the person is looking square into the camera and posed in front of a white background.

Marilyn Monroe

He would provoke reactions from his subjects by asking them uncomfortable questions or psychologically probing questions.  In doing this he produced images revealing aspects of his subjects character and personality that were not captured by others.  

Avedon worked right up until his death in 2004.  He died of a brain hemorrhage whilst shooting an assignment for The New Yorker.  At the time of his death he was also working on a new project titled Democracy to focus on the run up to the 2004 US Presidential election. 

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