Richard Avedon: A Century of Portrait Photography

It's the Centenary of the birth of Richard Avedon, the most famous portrait photographer of the last century...!

And for the skeptics: Google agrees with the statement! If you search for: "the most famous photographer" Richard appears first. But if you, instead type: "the most famous photographers you should know" Julia Margaret Cameron takes the lead, and Avedon doesn't even show up until the 50th place... What are you trying to tell us, Google?

Symbols of Themselves

By sukopyramid in Richard Avedon: A Century of Portrait Photography 12.03.2024 at 13:23
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Richard Avedon was a New Yorker born in 1923, so the century passed a year ago, already! I hope you can look past this 365 days inaccuracy...

Richard's portrait style is apparently simple, utilizing an immaculate white background (a blank page of sorts) where his subjects positioned themselves. The famous photographer always preferred studio work.

"It isolates people from their environment. In a sense they become... symbols of themselves". - Richard Avedon

Marilyn and Tina

By sukopyramid in Richard Avedon: A Century of Portrait Photography 12.03.2024 at 13:48
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Marilyn Monroe and Tina Turner need no introduction. Tina is the Queen of Rock and Roll and Marilyn met the Queen Elizabeth II, once...! Maybe, I should look them up to refresh my memory a little...

Monroe's portrait was taken in New York in 1957. There's many photographs of her smiling seductively that you've already seen, but photographer Richard Avedon managed to capture "the real Marilyn Monroe" in this photo... I wonder what his technique was... Did he remind Marilyn of a tragic incident in her life and managed to caught her off-guard with a flash in the mist of her despair?

On the contrary, Tina Tuner seems to be having a grand all time... Although, perhaps the cable wasn't properly connected to the mic and she got shocked by the electric current... Or, maybe she had a different reaction to Richard bringing up her trauma in the session... Who knows?

Anyways, this picture was taken in 1971, again in New York. And again, "this is the real Tina Turner", right...? I only hope she could compose herself in family reunions...!

American West, Dovima and Elephants

By sukopyramid in Richard Avedon: A Century of Portrait Photography 12.03.2024 at 18:52
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Let's start with Dovima: her real name is Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba (definitely longer than her artistic name...!). She became a fashion icon in the 50s and she worked with Vogue and so on...! But, what about the elephants? How did Avedon get such a picture? They took it at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris...

There, I ruined the magic of the picture...! You wanted me to tell you a whole intricate and interesting story behind the elephants? Maybe, that Avedon had them as pets and that they were named after his failed marriages...? That would be impossible, he only married twice... Oh, you readers and your twisted imagination!

The picture on the left is part of Richard Avedon's collection called American West where he took portraits of regular people... Although, those freckles are not so regular... She could perfectly appear in a teen show like Stranger Things, even...! I guess, the photographer featured regular people he found to be photogenic enough...

The photos initially caused an outrage when he first released them, however his photos documented what the heart of America was really like... Just a bunch of undiscovered supermodels!

Nude Beekeeper and Oppenheimer

By sukopyramid in Richard Avedon: A Century of Portrait Photography 12.03.2024 at 19:29
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We know that the naked beekeeper was called Ronald Fischer and that his picture was taken in California in 1981... But I couldn't find why he is naked, though...! In my research, I did find other naked beekeepers... unfortunately!

Oppenheimer, now quite the movie icon, was the inventor of the nuclear bomb. After he witnessed the first detonation of the nuclear weapon in 1945, he said: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”... I mean, he was asking to make a film with a quote that poignant!

His picture was taken in 1958, well after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and yet it looks as if Oppenheimer was still gazing at the destruction... Or perhaps Avedon used his old trick and reminded the physicist of a tragic moment in his life... Was he thinking of a naked beekeeper? We will never know!

Now it's your turn!

If you like Richard Avedon's style and would like to test out his "tricks" I'd recommend you first check out some of Domestika's courses on photography.

You got to be fast to take a good picture! What if your subject storms off the set because you reminded them of their recently dead hamster, just to get a "genuine" reaction out of them...?

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