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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Richard Avedon

Dates:  1923, 15 May - 2004, 1 October
Born:  US, NY, New York
Died:  US, TX, San Antonio
Active:  US
Website:  www.richardavedon.com
 
  
American portrait and fashion photographer.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Richard Avedon
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

 
  
Richard Avedon has transformed fashion photography and portraiture alike, creating an instantly identifiable aesthetic which has influenced countless others. His ‘signature’ large format studio portraits of politicians, writers and artists render the sitters "symbolic of themselves", as he put it. His use of stark white backgrounds and life-size printing places viewers in a new relationship to the photographic image - a physical and almost confrontational one. His ability to create visual tension and surprise through unexpected contrasts is unparalleled. 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
Closely working with his mentor, Brodovitch, at Harper’s Bazaar (1945–1965), Avedon became a dominant practitioner of fashion photography. He opened the Richard Avedon Studio in New York City in 1946 and was a staff photographer for Vogue (1966–1990), and The New Yorker (1992–2004). His large format studio portraits isolated people from their environment by placing them in a white seamless void. Avedon’s style embraced the minute details of the terrain of the human face and not the idealization of the sitter, reading more like topographic maps than traditional portraits. 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Richard Avedon 
1966
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

Visual indexes

 
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Visual indexes for this photographer are available for subscribers.There is so much more to explore when you subscribe. 
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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
 

Internet resources

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Richard Avedon 
http://pdngallery.com ... 
  
Richard Avedon 
http://www.pbs.org ... 
This is part of the excellent American Masters series of television programs broadcast by PBS in the USA. 
  
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.252 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.48-49 
  
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
  
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.207 [Includes a well written short biography on Richard Avedon with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Richard Avedon.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.76-77 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.240 
  
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Richard Avedon are included in this classic history.] 
  
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.168 [Analyzes a single photograph by Richard Avedon.] 
  

Collections

Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 
  

 
Library of Congress, Washington, USA 
  
Approximate number of records: ? 
Note: A single record may contain more than one photograph.
Click here
 

Quotations

The wit and wisdom.

 
"All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth."
"I always prefer to work in the studio. It isolates people from their environment. They become in a sense . . .symbolic of themselves. I often feel that people come to me to be photographed as they would go to a doctor or a fortune teller — to find out how they are."
"I hate cameras. They interfere, they're always in the way. I wish: if I could work with my eyes alone."
"If I could do what I want with my eyes alone, I would be happy."
"My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph."
"Of all the photographers inventing surreal images, it is Mr. LaChapelle who has the potential to be the genre‘s Magritte."
"The point is that you can't get at the thing itself, the real can't get at the thing itself, the real nature of the sitter, by stripping away the surface. The surface is all you've got. All you can do is to manipulate that surface - gesture, costume, expression - radically and correctly.""
 
  
 
  
 
  
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