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RIP Richard Avedon.
October 1, 2004 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Another master taken: Richard Avedon, dead at 81. Arguably the greatest portrait photographer in history, Avedon was famous not only for his fashion or celebrity shots, but also his interest in the common man, best emphasized by the book "In the American West". He was recently working on a piece, "On Democracy" when he suffered a brain hemorrhage. Many may be familiar with his simple black & white on white style from his shots for the New Yorker (he was their first staff photographer). His site is currently shrouded in respect.
posted by Civil_Disobedient (13 comments total)

 
Annie Leibovitz should buy some insurance--fast.
posted by ColdChef at 12:59 PM on October 1, 2004


I saw In the American West at the Corcoran, Washington DC.
it's still impossible for me to define in words the impact it had.
with HCB and Frank, he was part of my personal photographic trinity

.


Chef, I love you man, but Leibovitz is to Avedon what Korbel is to vintage Veuve Cliquot

posted by matteo at 1:06 PM on October 1, 2004


Who's left these days? Herb Ritts? Anton Corbijn?

Eff Annie Leibovitz! Her American Express sponsored portraits of famous folk with their accompanying Amex card made me sick to my stomach. ugh.
posted by shoepal at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2004


damn ...


.
posted by Peter H at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2004


I love his work. I had a copy of ITAW, until some flake borrowed it and never returned it.
posted by carter at 2:01 PM on October 1, 2004


One of my favorite stories:

Avedon got his first camera, a Brownie, when he was young, about 8 or 10 years old. He says that his first model was his younger sister, who was six years old at the time. He took pictures of her, then taped the negatives (which were 2.25 inch format) onto his body and went to the beach. At the end of the day his sister was tanned onto his body...
posted by alms at 2:03 PM on October 1, 2004


After Newton and Bresson... seems like all my favorite photographers are dying...
posted by ig at 3:16 PM on October 1, 2004


I had a bad feeling about this when I heard about his stroke the other day. All my favourites are leaving too soon. :(
posted by biscotti at 4:44 PM on October 1, 2004


Wonderful photographer. But I don't know about that "shrouding in respect" stuff.
posted by 327.ca at 5:23 PM on October 1, 2004


dang dang dang.

to me, avedon, like bresson, eisenstaedt, and lartigue, was so great because he was able to bridge the gap between "art" and
"commerce" with such incredible visual power.

it is hard to think of photographers these days that quite live up...

oh well at least Rene Burri is still alive. (and helen levitt is too, but I don't the she was ever a commercial photographer.)

(Of current living photographers who do commercial or journalistic work, I like Frank Horvat, Steve McCurry, Chester Higgins, and Sylvia Plachy, but yeah...Avedon was the head of that list....)
posted by jann at 6:25 PM on October 1, 2004


This is sad news. I have been reading The New Yorker every week recently, and almost always admiring Avedon's photos. (His picture in the current issue, of Maurizio Cattelan [sorry, not online] is remarkable.)

Arguably the greatest portrait photographer in history

So I truly love Avedon's work (and remember seeing his In the American West photos, large size, at the Amon Carter Museum in 1985), but I think I'd have to go with Arnold Newman as an even greater portrait photographer. Check out his [Flash] portfolios at this site.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:42 PM on October 1, 2004


"Avedon, c'est la sublimation du sujet "
-- Paolo Roversi, in today's Libération (whose entire front page is dedicated to Avedon's "Dovima and the elephants" image)

Le don Avedon
Le photographe américain au regard fulgurant est mort vendredi à 81 ans
.
Par Brigitte OLLIER
Libération

Dans les années 50, Avedon photographie Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Dorothy Parker. Les portraits ne sont guère flatteurs («Un portrait n'est pas une amabilité, mais une opinion», dira le maître), mais au moins ces femmes ont l'air éloquentes et pas momifiées comme le sont aujourd'hui les célébrités. A cette époque, ce portraitiste exigeant représente aussi le photographe de mode idéal, il en est l'essence même, l'archétype. Pas étonnant donc, qu'il soit conseiller visuel pour le film de Stanley Donen Funny Face, avec Fred Astaire, sa doublure sur écran, amoureux d'Audrey Hepburn. En 1959 paraît Observations, son premier livre avec un texte de Truman Capote et un graphisme explosif. Tous ses livres nourris au biberon de Brodovitch seront à l'image du premier, exceptionnellement vivants, ironiques et sincères.

__________

Un dimanche avec Renoir
En 1985, dans la revue «Egoïste», Richard Avedon raconte sa rencontre «pétrifiante» avec le cinéaste.


Renoir s'éclipse, Avedon aussi. Mais alors qu'il sort, le maître français sort de sa chambre. Avedon le remercie de lui avoir accordé du temps, et Renoir répond : «Ce n'est pas ce qu'on dit qui compte ; ce sont les sentiments qui s'échangent au-dessus de la table.» Avedon regagne sa voiture et se met à pleurer : «Oui, c'est le genre de critère selon lequel j'apprécie le comportement humain : être capable de cette acuité à chaque instant. Cette vigilance et cette sensibilité. Je pense qu'il n'y a rien de plus important dans la vie que cette histoire : un homme de cet âge, dans l'environnement des oeuvres de son père, qui a créé son oeuvre personnelle, vivant dans cette maison baignée par les rayons du soleil qui trouent les fenêtres, avec sa femme auprès de lui, cette carafe de vodka et les rondelles de citron, des amis, son fils devenu professeur et les enfants mêlés aux adultes, un dimanche, et qu'il soit quand même capable d'être aussi attentif à un étranger.»


_______________


Le portraitiste des âmes
Le Monde


Il invente le portrait sur fond blanc, qui fait jaillir de l'épreuve photographique un "visage-paysage", dépouillé de toute anecdote et des "bruits de fond", une surface vive d'un impact phénoménal, afin d'intensifier la confrontation entre le modèle et le spectateur. Quand on lui demandait pourquoi ce fond blanc, il usait d'une pirouette : "Je ne vois pas l'arrière-plan, je suis myope."

posted by matteo at 6:26 AM on October 2, 2004


Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker

His best-known photographs, from the Parisienne leaping over a puddle in high heels to his dying father’s desperate face, all share a belief in the heroism of self-assertion, a belief that every leap is a leap of faith. His definitive portraits of the powerful and the powerless—encompassing, in a manner almost without equal in the history of portraiture, the artistic and political hierarchies of the past half century of American life—were almost Roman in their severe authority. But they were not the negation of his dancing and delighted fashion photographs, as critics sometimes thought: the portraits were the solid, mineral form of what was, in the fashion pictures, pure liquid. Both were studies in human performance: how we prepare a face to face the world, and how the world shows itself in our faces. As long as people remain curious about life in the twentieth century, they will turn to Avedon’s photographs to see how it looked, and what it meant.

posted by matteo at 6:36 AM on October 2, 2004


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