Richard Avedon, the late, New York-born photographer who enjoyed a two-part career of iconic image-making; as well as his upbeat, elegant and glamorous fashion editorial and advertising, he was also celebrated for his insightful portraiture.
Who? Richard Avedon, the late, New York-born photographer who enjoyed a two-part career of iconic image-making; awell as his upbeat, elegant and glamorous fashion editorial and advertising, he was also celebrated for his insightful portraiture.
What? The Gagosian Gallery in Paris is currently exhibiting a series of Avedon's works entitled Writers, featuring portraits taken between 1950-70 of pioneering literary figures including Susan Sontag, Aldous Huxley and Samuel Beckett. The portraits bear the trademarks of Avedon's photography: minimal, unrefined and undeniably powerful. Avedon had a deceptively simple portrait style and worked mainly from his East Side studio – a space that allowed him to control all elements of the image.
Why? The exhibition offers a rare opportunity to see key works such as the portrait of a young Truman Capote taken in 1955. Depicting the writer topless and with his head thrown back in a trance-like state, the image epitomises Avedon’s desire to capture his subjects in intimate and emotive conditions. Four years later the duo (who were firm friends) went on to publish Observations in which images of Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso and Alfred Hitchcock taken by Avedon ran alongside notes by Capote. A close friend, Capote was a great admirer of his work, and once responded to a less than positive review of one of Avedon's second book Nothing Personal: "The most unjust is in his depicting Avedon as merely an “affluent” fashion-photographer whose main motivation in assembling this book was to exploit the American desire for self-denigration and, so to say, cash in. Balls". Capote later appeared in Avedon's The Sixties book – a decade on from the topless shot, the American author appears less slender, wearing a dark shirt which is pulled open to reveal his navel.
Throughout his six-decade career Richard Avedon contributed heavily to the progression of fashion photography. He worked at Vogue, The New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar and is best known for his Versace campaigns in the eighties and a Calvin Klein Campaign featuring a fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields. Alongside his work for the style press, Avedon also focused on personal and political works in which he captured the American Civil rights movement, the fall of the Berlin Wall and Vietnam war protesters.
Richard Avedon: Writers also coincides with an announcement from the Gagosian Gallery of their exclusive worldwide representation of the artists work. The exhibition runs at the Gagosian Gallery, Paris until July 28, 2011.
Text by Isabella Burley