R I C H A R D   A V E D O N

John Martin, Dancer, New York City, 3/20/1975

John Martin, Dancer, New York City, 3/20/1975

Richard Avedon (1923–2004) was born and lived in New York City. His interest in photography began at an early age, and he joined the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) camera club when he was twelve years old.  Avedon joined the armed forces in 1942 during World War II, serving as Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the U.S. Merchant Marine. After two years of service, he left the Merchant Marine to work as a professional photographer.  At the age of twenty-two, Avedon began working as a freelance photographer, primarily for Harper’s Bazaar.  Under Alexey Brodovitch’s tutelage, he quickly became the lead photographer for [the magazine]... In April 1965, he joined Vogue, where he worked for more than twenty years. In 1992, Avedon became the first staff photographer at The New Yorker, where his portraiture redefined the aesthetic of the magazine. During this period, his fashion photography appeared almost exclusively in the French magazine Egoïste. 

Throughout, Avedon ran a successful commercial studio, and is widely credited with erasing the line between “art” and “commercial” photography. He is known for his extended portraiture of the American Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam war and a celebrated cycle of photographs of his father, Jacob Israel Avedon.  In 1976, for Rolling Stone magazine, he produced “The Family,” a collective portrait of the American power elite at the time of the country’s bicentennial election. From 1979 to 1985, he worked extensively on a commission from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, ultimately producing the show and book In the American West.

Avedon’s first museum retrospective was held at the Smithsonian Institution in 1962. Many major museum shows followed, including two at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978 and 2002), the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (1970), the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (1985), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1994). His first book of photographs, Observations, with an essay by Truman Capote, was published in 1959. He continued to publish books of his works throughout his life, including Nothing Personal in 1964 (with an essay by James Baldwin), Portraits 1947–1977 (1978, with an essay by Harold Rosenberg), An Autobiography (1993), Evidence 1944–1994 (1994, with essays by Jane Livingston and Adam Gopnik), and The Sixties (1999, with interviews by Doon Arbus). 

-Paraphrased from Avedon Foundation

 

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