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  • Robert S Bradshaw

Richard Avedon

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Richard Avedon (1923-2004) was an influential American photographer known for his groundbreaking work in fashion photography, portraiture, and documentary photography. Here is an overview of his life and career:

Early Life: Richard Avedon was born on May 15, 1923, in New York City. He grew up in a Jewish family and developed an early interest in photography, encouraged by his father who was a dress retailer. He began taking photographs at a young age and honed his skills.

Education: Avedon attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he served as the photographer for the school's newspaper. After graduating, he briefly attended Columbia University but left to work as a photographer for the Merchant Marines during World War II.

Early Career: After the war, Avedon studied photography at the New School for Social Research under Alexey Brodovitch. He soon became a prominent photographer for Harper's Bazaar, working for the magazine from 1945 to 1965.

Fashion Photography: Avedon is renowned for his revolutionary approach to fashion photography. He broke away from traditional, static poses, often capturing models in motion, and used natural light to create dynamic and dramatic images. His work helped redefine fashion photography in the mid-20th century.

Portraiture: Avedon was equally celebrated for his portrait photography. He captured iconic images of numerous celebrities, artists, politicians, and other notable figures. His portraits were known for their simplicity, stark backgrounds, and their ability to reveal the subject's personality and character.

Notable Portraits: Avedon's portraits include images of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Andy Warhol, the Beatles, Malcolm X, and many other influential individuals. He had an extraordinary ability to connect with his subjects and bring out their essence.

The American West: In the 1980s, Avedon embarked on a major documentary project called "In the American West." He traveled across the United States to photograph ordinary people, often in remote and rural areas. The resulting portraits provided a striking and unvarnished look at the American people.

Awards and Honors: Avedon received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including the International Center of Photography's Master of Photography Award and the Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal. His work continues to be exhibited in major museums and galleries worldwide.

Legacy: Richard Avedon's influence on fashion and portrait photography remains enduring. He brought a new level of artistry to fashion and portrait photography, and his work continues to inspire contemporary photographers.

Death: Richard Avedon passed away on October 1, 2004, while on assignment in San Antonio, Texas. His contribution to the world of photography is remembered and celebrated to this day.

Richard Avedon's work continues to be a source of inspiration and a benchmark for photographers, particularly in the realms of fashion and portraiture. His ability to capture the essence of his subjects and his innovative approach to photography have left a lasting impact on the art form.

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