Richard Avedon was a Jewish New York photographer born on May 15th, 1923.
He began his involvement with photography at age 12 when he became a member of the Camera Club of the Hebrew Young Men Association. At school, he edited the school magazine “The Magpie” with his friend James Baldwin, who would later contribute with the text of one of his books.
He began studying philosophy in college, but had to interrupt his studies when he was drafted into the navy in 1942. He served as a merchant marine photographer for two years, and he would later refer to this period of his life as when he started to become a professional photographer.
Upon leaving the navy in 1944, he began studying photography at the New School for Social Research under the supervision of Alexey Brodovitch, who was working in the artistic direction of Harper’s Bazaar magazine at the time. In the same year, Avedon convinced the New York branch of the Bonwit Telles department store to lend him a few couture clothes for a photo shoot. As a result of that work, he got orders of photographs from the store.
In 1945, at age twenty, he began working as a freelance photographer and started a partnership with Harper’s Bazaar that would last years. The magazine helped shape Avedon’s style by initially denying him a studio, he was forced to work in open and public environments, photographing the models on beaches, nightclubs, streets and parks, thus creating what would later be his trademarks: photography with movement and in unusual environments. In a short period of time, Avedon became the chief photographer at Harper’s Bazaar.
His work at the magazine and in his personal studio was very successful and soon invitations to photograph for other magazines emerged. Among all his new partnerships, the one he made with Vogue magazine was the most recognized and lasted 20 years.
In 1957, Avedon inspired and worked on the film “Cinderella in Paris” starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. Fred Astaire’s character Dick Avery was loosely based on the photographer himself and the film was based on his life. He was able to work on it as a visual consultant.
At the same time, he released two of the several books he would publish, “Observations”, with text by Truman Capote and “Nothing Personal”, with text by James Baldwin.
Throughout his career, Richard Avedon has worked with different types of photography. His work encompassed portraits of celebrities and political figures, fashion photographs, war photographs, as well as portraits of ordinary Americans.
His work involved all aspects of fashion, and he was able to do portraits and photos for editorials as well as big fashion campaigns. Among the names he has worked with are brands and people like Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Calvin Klein, Versace, Dior, Elizabeth Taylor, Twiggy, Revlon, Andy Warhol and many others.
It is difficult to single out one of his works, as they are very diverse and most of them are very expressive and innovative. Perhaps two of the most recognized are the ones he made for The Beatles, one for the “St. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” album campaign and another for the “White Album”.
In addition to book collections, Richard Avedon was also celebrated at various exhibitions throughout his life.
He liked to work with movement, color saturation, and teasing the subject of his portraits until he got interesting reactions.
Richard Avedon passed away on October 1st, 2004.
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Bibliography: Callan, Georgina O’Hara; Enciclopédia da moda de 1840 à década de 90 / Georgina O’Hara Callan ; verbetes brasileiros Cynthia Garcia : tradução Glória Maria de Mello Carvalho, Maria Ignez França – São Paulo : Companhia das Letras, 2007.