Legendary American fashion photographer Richard Avedon who revolutionized the industry during his 60-year-long career (until his death in 2004) has taken tens upon thousands of the most well-done and well-known photographs. He is also famous for saying, “Think about the dream of Paris that everyone has. I helped invent that dream.” To honor this icon, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is hosting a traveling exhibition of Avedon’s works entitled Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 which runs through January 17 2011.
Whether it be his photos of 15-year-old Brooke Shields in the controversial Calvin Klein Jeans campaign, his portraits of Andy Warhol, The Beatles, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Dylan, his tenure at Harper’s Bazaar, US Vogue and Life, or his photos for Gianni Versace, Richard Avedon’s name has been synonymous with fashion since the 1940s.
Born in New York City in the 1920s, Richard Avedon was fascinated since childhood by the art of photography, and the power that it has to portray clothes and women. He realized this as he grew up watching his father’s business (a women’s clothing store). Dropping out of Columbia University, Avedon began his career as a photographer for the Merchant Marines in 1942, followed by shooting advertisements for a department store. He soon caught the eye of Harper’s Bazaar’s creative director, eventually leading him to occupy the role of chief photographer for the magazine. During this time, Avedon opened up his own studio and began working on assignments for US Vogue and Life magazine.
In 1966, Avedon followed famous editor Diana Vreeland when she left Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue; he subsequently became the staff photographer at Vogue until Anna Wintour‘s entry in 1988. He was also the star photographer year after year for the Gianni Versace label circa the 1980s. Numerous 1990s supermodels such as Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Stephanie Seymour and Cindy Crawford were featured in his photos. These images are now considered precious collectibles.
At a time, when fashion photographers followed de rigeur of asking models to remain still and emotionless in order to emphasize the clothes, Avedon went against the grain, asking models to jump, laugh, run down the street and wear rollerblades. He is said to have been able to animate the clothes via the model unlike any other photographer.
Richard Avedon was not only responsible for animating designers’ creations, but his photos of Paris can be said to hold testament to his self-proclaimed statement regarding the invention of the dreamy vision of Paris that exists today. As he frequented Paris in the latter half of the 1940s on Harper’s Bazaar assignments, Avedon began taking multiple series of photos of bleak Post-World War II Paris. However instead of showing a disheartened, gray city, he showed models skipping on the sidewalks, showing a real sense of joie de vivre.
He found a way to take designers’ creations, be it Dior or Balenciaga, depict a woman wearing these clothes with sophistication, and then involve her with an element of the city, be it at the Moulin Rouge, or watching street performers in the Marais or outside the many cafes that line the Parisian sidewalks.
Although Avedon did take non-fashion photographs as well, the Avedon Fashion exhibition explores only one aspect of his multi-faceted talent. The exhibition runs at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts until January 17, 2011.
Images from TFS & The Richard Avedon Foundation.