Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Contemporary Portrait Photographer -- Richard Avedon

Biography: Richard Avedon was born on May 15th, 1923.  He was born and raised in the United States, in New York.  He went to Columbia University before he started his career as a photographer for the Merchant Marines in 1942. He worked for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Life and later on The New Yorker. He did a lot of fashion photography, as well as portraits and reportage.

Significance: Richard Avedon was significant because he was wonderful at capturing the characteristics and personality of his subjects.  He is also noted for his large prints - especially his pieces of workers and life in the Western United States - which were compiled into a book and exhibit called In the American West. In 1994 the Whitney Museum brought together 50 years of his work in a retrospective exhibit, Richard Avedon: Evidence.  He pushed the boundaries in portraiture through the scale, subject matter, his methods of photography and his ability to capture the personal views/sides of celebrities. 

Composition: Avedon's work was often well lit and photographed in front of white backgrounds. His images are known for their movement and spontaneity, as well as minimalism.

Dovima with Elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, August 1955

Composition: His composition emphasizes scale differences and repetition through posture. He also emphasizes the dress that is being modeled by his use of contrast - the boldness of the dress stands out against the mid tones of the elephants. It is also balanced, as the woman is in the middle with elephants on both sides. The perspective is straight on and emphasizes the curves of the woman and the dress.

Concept/Aboutness/Idea: Avedon is working in fashion photography, but he does not just capture the dress. Through his use of nature and contrast (a white dress in the middle of muddy elephants, color) he succeeds in modeling a dress in a unique and thought provoking way.

Method: A lot of thought went into this photograph, not only the concept and compositional elements. He had to set up the scene, find elephants and organize them in a safe way, and photograph a model and a dress. He used successful lighting and a straight on point of view to emphasize the dress and the repetition.

Motivations: His goal is to emphasize the dress, as here he is working in fashion photography, but in an interesting and unique way. Also, this could act as a portrait of the model, as well.

Opinion: I like this piece because I think that he is really pushing fashion photography. Not only is he advertising the dress, but he is doing it a way that is interesting, and captures my attention.

Other Images
Homage to Munkacsi. Carmin, coat by Cardin, Place Francois-Premier, Paris, August 1957
This picture reflects the sense of movement and spontaneity that are characteristic of Avedon's compositions. 

Marilyn Monroe, Actress, New York, May 6th, 1957
This portrait of Marilyn Monroe shows his ability to capture the personal views/sides of celebrities.  

A recent portrait taken by Avedon, of President Obama. 

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