Richard Avedon’s photography is easily recognized by his signature style, where subjects are in front of a stark white backdrop, looking squarely into the camera. For almost 50 years, he took photos of beautiful women for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and later photographed intellectuals, artists and the working people of the American West. All of his photos express his regard for the individual as a whole, and I am inspired by his work, as he redefined fashion photography by capturing the concept of gorgeousness in his own way. (To see his work, go to www.richardavedon.com.)
Looking at his work, I’m drawn to the “raw” element of beauty that he brings out in his photos. For him, the photograph was not a report of a particular moment; instead, it needed to be something he could personally experience and make a statement about. While other photographers conveyed beauty as something mysterious, manipulated, or on the surface, Avedon captured beauty as a whole with a heightened sense of reality, combined with sophistication and an element of fantasy or surprise.
His studio was empty, which allowed his subjects to move freely in any way. Although his meticulously managed his shoots, Avedon was able to translate the rehearsed movement into a spontaneous moment. He also revealed his subjects’ personality to show the real, “raw” person beneath the model or celebrity by asking uncomfortable or probing questions that would provoke a certain expression that he wanted. Unlike the typical fashion photographs that featured static, emotionless models for the surface beauty, Avedon was able to encapsulate the true emotions of his models and oftentimes capture them in motion. His subjects jumped, leaped, smiled or pouted, and each photograph seemed to tell a story.
Thanks to his visionary work, he defined Twiggy as the classic 60s model, although her career was actually brief. The photo of Dovima stroking the unharnessed elephants while wearing an elegant gown has now become an icon of fashion photography. And the American West portraits exhibited the rugged individualism of his subjects.
I admire Avedon’s unique visions of going beyond the conventional standards of beauty. At the time when beauty was either obscured or represented through the exterior, Avedon dug deep into his subjects to capture the raw beauty that lay underneath the surface. For someone to do something so differently from what’s approved by the mainstream, and have his work wield such a lasting influence, that’s truly inspiring.
Photo Credit: http://www.heavydutydesign.com/alicethelma