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scowan007
10-04-2004, 12:50
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=6394520

Photographer Richard Avedon Dies in Texas
Fri Oct 1, 2004 09:13 PM ET



By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Richard Avedon, who turned fashion and portrait photography into art forms and captured unforgettable images of some of the world's most famous figures, died on Friday at 81, a spokeswoman for the New Yorker magazine said.

Spokeswoman Perri Dorset said Avedon, the magazine's staff photographer, died in San Antonio, Texas, almost a week after he suffered a brain hemorrhage while working on a photo essay on democracy for the magazine. New Yorker editor David Remnick said the magazine would publish the essay even though it was incomplete.

"He had taken pictures of ordinary people and people you know, wounded soldiers, politicians, activists, convention delegates. He was nearly finished when he was stricken,"

"In the course of 60 years nonstop work, he had the energy level of a hummingbird and he provided some of the most profound and joyous images of our time, whether it was portraits of Samuel Beckett, the Chicago Seven or criminals," Remnick added.

Avedon became the New Yorker's first staff photographer in 1992 after a career in which he virtually defined fashion and portrait photography in the United States, finding faces of women later dubbed super-models, thanks to his pictures.

FILM ON HIS LIFE

The 1957 Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn film "Funny Face," about a fashion photographer in Paris, was based on his life. He served as a consultant to director Stanley Donen.

From 1945 to 1965, he was staff photographer for Harper's Bazaar under a series of legendary editors. After he left Harper's, he joined Vogue, where he remained until 1990.

His portraits of such figures as Jimmy Durante, Brigitte Bardot, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jacques Cousteau, Andy Warhol, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, the Duchess of Windsor and Truman Capote were intense studies against a white backdrop that often caught a person's secret persona.

He caught the essence of dancer Rudolph Nureyev by photographing his foot, and his portrait of a sensual Nastassja Kinski in 1981 -- wrapped in a python -- become one of the most talked-about photographs of its time.

"He seemed to get at the essence of people like no one else. His pictures of Marilyn Monroe capture her extraordinary sadness and her unexpected depth. He invented a kind of portraiture ... that was designed to display the essence of a person," New Yorker editor Remnick said.

"NO" TO CONVENTIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Avedon once described his technique this way: "I've worked out of no's. No to exquisite light, no to apparent compositions, no to the seduction of poses or narratives. And those no's force me to a yes. I have white background. I have the person I am interested in and the thing that happens between us."

In the introduction to a book he did on the faces of the American West, Avedon said, "A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or a fact is transformed into a photograph, it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."

In 1994, American Photo magazine named him number one on its list of "Photography's Top 100.

"No one has ever used a camera the way Avedon has. Each time he makes a picture, it's like he's discovering the magic of photography again. For all their sophistication, his pictures derive their power from an ability to tap directly into our own childlike forbidden stare," the magazine's editor, David Schonauer, said.

Don Winslow, editor of News Photographer Magazine, said it was hard to say what was Avedon's greatest work as "he kept surpassing himself with everything he ever did. He worked with this huge crate of a camera that allowed him to fufill his vision. He had a minimal approach; the backgrounds were white or gray. The lighting was straight on. He had his subject confront the cameras but the subject was really confronting the photographer."

Avedon often left the realm of fashion to capture gritty real world images of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war and the Chicago Seven trial.

Born in New York, Avedon quit high school to join the Merchant Marine, where he learned photography by taking identification photos. Afterwards he he got a job at a department store and was brought to Harper's Bazaar by an art director who discovered him there.