Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon
Born May 15, 1923
New York, New York
Died Oct. 1, 2004 (at age 81)
San Antonio, Texas
Nationality American

Richard Avedon was a famous American fashion and portrait photographer. During his career, he worked for some big names in the magazine industry, including Harper’s Bazaar, Life, and Vogue. He also photographed some of the world’s biggest celebrities, such as Judy Garland and The Beatles.

Early Life

Richard was born on May 15, 1923, in New York City. His mother, Anna Avedon, came from a family of dress manufacturers and his father, Jacob Avedon, owned a clothing store. As a young man, Richard was inspired by his parents’ clothing businesses and so he took a great interest in fashion. He enjoyed taking photographs of clothes in his dad’s store.

When he turned 12, Richard joined the YMHA camera club. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School where he met his good friend, James Baldwin. Apart from his interest in fashion and photography, he also developed an affinity for poetry. Together with James, they served as co-editors of the school’s magazine. In 1941, he graduated from high school and enrolled at Columbia University.

University Years

At Columbia University, he studied philosophy and poetry. After one year, he dropped out to serve in the U.S Merchant Marine during World War II. He served there for two years from 1942 to year 1944. After leaving the Marine, Richard attended the New School for Research in New York to study photography. He studied under Alexey Brodovitch, director of Harper’s Bazaar and the two formed a close relationship. After one year, he was hired as a staff photographer for the magazine.

Career Highlights

Richard Avedon spent several years photographing daily life in New York City. He was assigned to cover spring and fall fashion collections in Paris. His task was to stage photographs of different models wearing new fashions out in the city. All through the 1940s and 1950s, he created elegant black-and-white photographs showing the latest fashions in real-life settings.

Dovima with the Elephants

By 1955, Richard Avedon was an established fashion photographer. It was during this time that he shot a very iconic photo entitled Dovima with the Elephants. This photograph featured the most famous model of that time in a black Dior evening gown together with a long silk sash and she was posed between two elephants. This image still remains one of the most strikingly original and iconic fashion photographs of all time.

Avedon’s Other Works

Avedon2For 20 years, Richard Avedon served as a staff photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. This was between 1945 and 1965. Apart from his fashion photography, he was also well known for his portraiture. During the 1960s, Richard expanded into more explicitly political photography. He did portraits of civil leaders like Martin Luther King, Julian Bond, and Malcolm X. In 1969, he shot several Vietnam War portraits including the Chicago Seven and American soldiers.

Between 1966 and 1990, he worked as a photographer for Vogue. He still shot photographs that often conveyed nudity, violence, and death. In 1959, he published a book on photographs entitled Observations and in 1964, he published Nothing Personal.

Avedon’s Exhibitions

Richard had many museums exhibitions all over the world. During his lifetime, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented two solo exhibitions in 1978 and 2002. In 1980, a retrospective was organized by the University Art Museum in Berkeley. Other major retrospectives were mounted at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1994 and the Louisiana Museum of Art in Denmark in 2007.

Richard Avedon passed away on October f1, 2004. He was 81 years old.

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