Richard Avedon photographing Sofia Loren, flopped from a mirror image.
Dovima with elephants, a famous Avedon photograph of a famous model in a Dior evening dress at the Cirque d'Hiver, August 1955. This proves how far Avedon took the art of fashion photography from the
typical studio shots when fashion magazines used models as clothes
hangers. It's presently the splash page for the Richard Avedon Foundation website. I thank them for the use of this photograph and others. Thanks to The Metropolitan Museum of Art for most of the other photos, which can be found at their website at this link.
I think this is a model named Dorian Leigh, very famous in the years Avedon was carving out a career in the rag trade. It's probably taken with the Rolleiflex, the camera he used in those early years.
The model here is Kate Moss, an international celebrity. It begs the question, why pose her so that her bum is grossly exaggerated? And why show her spinal vertebra? Only an orthopedist might care.
Marilyn Monroe in a pensive, tired moment, 1957. Avedon explains in an interview with Helen Whitney, a filmmaker, "There was no such person as Marilyn Monroe. [She] was someone Marilyn Monroe invented, like an author creates a character . . . For hours she danced and sang and flirted . . . . And when the night was over and the white wine was over and the dancing was over, she sat in the corner like a child . . . . I saw her sitting quietly without expression on her face, and I walked towards her but I wouldn't photograph her without her knowledge of it. And as I came with the camera, I saw that she was not saying no."
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1957
They hated the photo and Avedon's friend Mike Nichols explains why in this YouTube link. There are many more of Avedon's photos and related commentary on this tape.
Model Jean Shrimpton, Paris, 1965
Salvador Dalì. Can we use the Spanish word, jamon? Or is ham more approriate in English? In 1959, my wife and I stayed in a hotel opposite his home and studio in Port Lligat on Spain's Costa Brava. He could be seen darting from window to window and glaring at us, like someone possessed. One of Avedon's successes with humor and kudos to him for suffering such an egotistical eccentric.
Avedon photographed Nastassja Kinski and this serpent for US Vogue's
October 1981 issue. She spent two hours on a cold concrete floor, while
pregnant, waiting for the snake to slither up and kiss her. Some of
this is documented in color on YouTube. Avedon printed up posters and sold two million of them.
I think this is a particularly unkind photo of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. While I did not know her personally, I had seen her a few times on Cape Cod. She was an attractive older woman with classic features. My mother knew her as a beautiful young woman. Showing her gnarled hands was insensitive.
Who could not detest the racist governor of Alabama, George Wallace?
George Herbert Walker Bush, when he was director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Senator and Ambassador to the United Nations
These last three photos are enough to convince me of Avedon's genius.
"Avedon recoiled from the 'fake nobility' of rhetorical celebrity portraits by such men as Yousuf Karsh. 'I think real meanness is condescension, and making people cosmetically beautiful when the picture isn't about that.' he says. When it was taken in 1957, his haunting, lost-in-space portrait of Marilyn Monroe may have seemed like a subversion of her golden image, but it is Avedon's melancholic take that proved prophetic-setting the tone for the revisionist myth that now threatens to become its own cliche."