Bio of Richard Avedon and a Review of His Photography
Sometimes the most simplistic photographic images allow our imaginations to wonder the meaning and implications that the photographer was trying to convey to his or her viewers. Imagine being able to photograph major artists, political figures, and people of the public with just a white background and some black and white film, the end result consists of some the most emotional and impacting images that the human eye can view through a photograph. Richard Avedon is a photographer who has spanned more than a half a century and he has a very distinguished reputation and has been able to create some of the most original and iconic images of all time.
Richard Avedon takes the usual traditional portrait, and creates an emotional and powerful image through the simple task of capturing humans’ pure emotions and conveying them through photographs. According to Philippe De Montebello from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ” His portraits are looked at as virtuosos reckoning with human complexities and contradictions and a powerful expression of this artist’s distinctive version.” Avedon’s work has a signature white background and sharp clarity combined with unforgiving light. Avedon’s photography is a combination of sensibility and naturalism along with occasional satire.
His friends knew Richard as Dick Avedon, and he was radiant towards his friends and family and colleagues. He drew upon light and warmth for sustenance for not only his pictures, but also his own life. He died at the age of 81 and many said that some light seemed to disappear in many lives and pleasures that he was a part of throughout his life. Richard was a person who loved his family passionately and he believed in art with the same passion. People said that he was getting ready to take one more photograph when life fled from him, however if you look back on his life, he broke many barriers in both fashion and portrait photography (Gopnik, 1).
At the age of ten, Avedon became very interested in photographing Sergi Rachmanioff, a man who lived in an apartment above his grandparents in Manhattan. He managed to take his Kodak Brownie Box camera and capture this composer outside standing next to a fire hydrant. Even though this picture is now lost, many say that this is what started Avedon’s inspiration to capture famous people but in a different and unique setting (Abrams, Inc., 3). When Avedon was young, he wanted with all his heart to be a poet, at the end of his senior year of high school in 1941, New York City Schools named him Poet Laureate. However, soon after briefly studying at Columbia University, he soon changed to his real gift, his ability to take pictures.
In 1947 is when Richard Avedon’s photography became famous with his fashion photographs that he took in Paris, and this both revolutionized fashion photography as well we launched his career. Later in 1947, Avedon’s portrait work started to be seen and recognized with a picture he took of a young boy with a large tree in the background in Noto, Sicily. After taking the picture, he bleached out all of the other clutter and just left the small boy with his puffed chest and the one tree in the distance in order to create a simplistic, yet powerful image. Avedon also was an avid lover of theater and served on numerous executive boards for North American Theater, which also allowed him access to numerous actors and actresses for his continuing portraiture career (Abrams, Inc., 6).
When looking at the book, Richard Avedon Portraits, one can’t help but notice the sheer emotion and non-subtle displays of people that are portrayed throughout Avedon’s career. Take for instance the picture of Marilyn Monroe, her expression and gaze allow you to see past all the glitz and glam that this woman portrayed in the limelight, and allowed for people to understand that Marilyn Monroe was more than a movie star; she was a woman with emotions and problems of her own. Through Avedon’s intense emotional photographs and the ability to incorporate simple lighting and background techniques, his photography stands out among many other people in his profession.
After taking the time to look at many of Avedon’s pictures, my personal opinion still remains the same; he’s an amazing photographer with a knack for capturing the sheer emotions of the human body. I’ve always enjoyed black and white photography of all types, however, when you are able to look at a portrait and feel as if you are right there with the person and are able to feel their sadness, happiness, or whatever emotion is being expressed, a true work of art has been displayed. Even if one has no understanding of the basic elements of a good photograph, after examining Richard Avedon’s works of art, one truly understands what a good photographer possesses in his work.
Abrams, N. Harry, Inc., Richard Avedon Portraits. Welcome Enterprises, Richard Avedon, 2002.
Gopnick, Adam. Postscript: Issue of 2004-10-11Posted 2004-10-04. http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?041011fa_fact2.
Art in America. Richard Avedon, January 1987. http://www.zonezero.com/magazine/articles/kosloff/pagina3Avedon.html