I’m a photography hound. And I enjoy shooting snaps as much as I admire those whose photography game is legendary. Since I have soooo many favorites, it’s actually easier for me to name-drop the ones whose work I don’t admire. Richard Avedon is definitely not one of them. The man was a master. And there was nothing mundane or trite in his work. He allowed his diverse group of subjects, from the icons known on a one-name basis to the average Joes and Janes, free range to let loose for his lens–a new thing during Avedon’s early days, when “subjects keeping still” was the norm for vintage fashion photography.
Even when his subjects kept still, against the simplest of settings that was his signature white (or gray) backdrop, his pictures had life, genuine emotion, and innate allure.
Avedon’s work in fashion photography was what got me hooked on his stuff in the first place. The ads he did for, among others, Versace and Revlon were nothing short of memorable.
His is a style and aura I don’t see often in today’s photography, sadly. If there was a silver lining in his death in late 2004, it’s that he was no longer around when excess photoshop and no-talent famous-for-nothings-passed-off-as-(gag me)-A-listers started to take over. The latter had to be brought up because nothing taints a legacy more than a top photographer wasting film on, say,
Parasite Paris Hilton. (Hello, Testino.) And while I see people like Mert & Marcus bringing that Avedon-like style to their work, their excess photoshop kills it for me. That’s not to say that Avedon went photoshop-free in his work, but it seems tolerable in his captures compared to what you see in pictures from M&M. Hell, Avedon’s corpse could shoot a better picture than, say, total creep Terry Richardson.
A true artist to their craft is not one who is high on what they do and think it will be an instant classic, but one who simply does their work, genuinely enjoys it, stays true to their ideals but is also not afraid of a little experimentation, and keeps on with it, allowing the viewer to make judgement. While I’m not naive to think Avedon never showed a little ego in his 60 years of work, he seemed more like the type to let his photographs show what he’s made of. From what I’ve read of him, he never used the highest superlatives to describe his captures. No, he allowed his many admirers to do that. And there are times when even the highest superlative doesn’t cut it. Avedon was truly that good.
And if you’re wondering why an entry dedicated to Avedon today, well, it would have been his 92nd birthday today. And if he was still alive, he not only would still be bringing his A-game with his camera, he would be re-schooling almost all the top photographers today in distinctive style.
“His fashion and portrait photographs helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.” –The New York Times (I will say that as much as I like this quote, I’m not fond of taking things from the NYT, given some of their celebrity-penned op-eds of late, that irk the shit out of me.)