RICHARD AVEDON (1923-2004)   

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. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.

Timeline of Richard’s Early  and Personal life

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Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923 in New York City. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family of dress manufacturers, and his father, Jacob Israel Avedon, owned a clothing store called Avedon’s Fifth Avenue. Inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses, as a boy Avedon took a great interest in fashion, especially enjoying photographing the clothes in his father’s store. At the age of 12, he joined the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association) Camera Club.
Educated in the New York City public school system.  He attended DeWitt Clinton where one of his classmates and closest friends was the great writer James Baldwin. He and Baldwin served as co-editors of the school’s prestigious literary magazine, The Magpie.

  • In 1941 “Poet Laureate of New York City High Schools. After high school, Avedon enrolled at Columbia University to study philosophy and poetry. However, he dropped out after only one year to.
  • In 1942 he enlisted in the Merchant Marine during, taking identification photos. Returning to civilian life in 1944. Avedon attended the New School for Social Research in New York City to study photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the acclaimed art director of Harper’s Bazaar.
  • 1944, Avedon married 19-year-old bank teller Dorcas Marie Nowell who later became the model and actress Doe Avedon; they did not have children and divorced in 1949.
  • In 1945 he was hired as a fashion photographer by Alexey Brodovitch, the art director of Harper’s Bazaar. He demanded that his models convey emotion and movement, a departure from the norm of motionless fashion photography.
  • In 1946 he established his own studio .
  • In 1966 to 1990 he worked as a Photographer for vogue Harper’s Bazaar’s Chief rival among fashion magazines; and also contributed contributed photographs to Theatre Arts, Life, Look, and Graphis. He continued to push the boundaries of fashion photography with surreal, provocative and often controversial pictures in which nudity, violence and death featured prominently.
  • Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s he created elegant black-and-white photographs showcasing the latest fashions in real-life settings such as Paris’s picturesque cafes, cabarets and streetcars.
  • In 1951, he married Evelyn Franklin with whom he had one son, John Avedon; she died on March 13, 2004.
  • In 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus.The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash
  • On October 1, 2004, Avedon died at the age of 81 in San Antonio, Texas hospital of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was in San Antonio 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 U.S. presidential election.

Peak of his career

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Already established as one of the most talented young fashion photographers in the business, in 1955 Avedon made fashion and photography history when he staged a photo shoot at a circus. The iconic photograph of that shoot, “Dovima with Elephants,” features the most famous model of the time in a black Dior evening gown with a long white silk sash. She is posed between two elephants, her back serenely arched as she holds on to the trunk of one elephant while reaching out fondly toward the other. The image remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time. “He asked me to do extraordinary things,” Dovima said of Avedon. “But I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.”

Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, from 1945 to 1965. In addition to his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. His black-and-white portraits were remarkable for capturing the essential humanity and vulnerability lurking in such larger-than-life figures as President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. During the 1960s, Avedon also expanded into more explicitly political photography. He did portraits of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Julian Bond, as well as segregationists such as Alabama Governor George Wallace, and ordinary people involved in demonstrations. In 1969, he shot a series of Vietnam War portraits that included the Chicago Seven, American soldiers and Vietnamese napalm victims.

Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power exhibition  The exhibit is a very powerful collection of Avedon’s work over the past 6 decades.“This exhibition traces one artist’s fascination with the animating forces of American democracy. Seen together, the photographs comprise a kind of historical group portrait, showing key figures from a half-century of political life. They provoke questions about the complex motivations of portraitists and their subjects, who work—sometimes at cross-purposes—to depict or project an image that conveys personal history, character, ambitions, and ideals. Finally, they reveal an extraordinary career-long investigation into the complex nature of power. Surrounded by the faces of the powerful, leaders and ordinary citizens alike, the audience is itself empowered by the dialogue that results between those who use power to exercise control and those who seek it to affect change.”

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           Malcom x                                             Marian Anderson                       

Avedon later described one childhood moment in particular as helping to kindle his interest in fashion photography: “One evening my father and I were walking down Fifth Avenue looking at the store windows,” he remembered. “In front of the Plaza Hotel, I saw a bald man with a camera posing a very beautiful woman against a tree. He lifted his head, adjusted her dress a little bit and took some photographs. Later, I saw the picture in Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t understand why he’d taken her against that tree until I got to Paris a few years later: the tree in front of the Plaza had that same peeling bark you see all over the Champs-Elysees.”

f228ae9e470fb9a59b02cce08f47d297                                                                        President Obama  

Awards and notable achievements

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Information Source:  bio.com

                                     Encyclopedia.com

                                     Hamiltonsgallery

                                     Dobettermovement

                                     Gaiam

                                     Wikipedia

 

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