PHOTO MASTERS: PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY RICHARD AVEDON
Richard Avedon (1923-2004) is an American master of fashion photography. At least, many modern photographers think so, looking at his work. In fact, besides the fashion style that Avedon really loved, the photographer was very appreciative of the artistic picture as a whole, considering it a real vocation.
In his portfolio, with which we will meet today, there are works of various genres, from a staging portrait for the fashion industry to street reportage.
Richard Avedon’s first experience in the fashion industry is very revealing. As a young photographer who recently filmed a soldier for documents, Richard was able to persuade the fashion store manager to rent outfits for him, and he spent all his savings to hire a professional fashion model. His work so impressed with the administration of the store that Avedon received a contract and was able to do what he liked.
Look at the work of most modern fashion photographers – only a few of them stand out in a unique style. The rest repeat all the same gestures, the same composition, the same characteristic tendencies, due to which the names of their authors are not even remembered. The work of Avedon, for all their seeming simplicity, is distinguished by the plastic movement, which he was able to convey in the photograph due to the subtle sense of composition in the language of the human body. Later works are also beautiful with a competent combination of colors and tones.
Today, thousands of photographers put themselves on the example of Richard Avedon, but he himself always “demarcated fashion and portrait photography.” He called the latter more “deep” work. He did not deny his love for fashion, claiming that he was pleased to earn a living this way. But he enjoyed even more from portraits. He considered himself a portrait photographer.
Richard Avedon loved to shoot portraits of actors, musicians, politicians and film stars. These portraits have never been formal – if we look at them alongside portraits of ordinary people in the American West (Avedon’s creative project), a strange but quite natural resemblance can be found. All people, from simple miners to directors and politicians, in the photographs of Avedon reveal their souls so much that the difference in their social status can be guessed only by their clothes. And in this sense, the portraits of celebrities are even more amazing than the portraits of the American West – to reveal the soul of a person who is watched by the whole society is not given to everyone.
In this series, the photographer’s favorite reception is best observed – shooting out of context, not supported by any posture or composition. Portraits of the American West are photographs of ordinary people, taken in old clothes, on a plain white background, with hands at the seams. Any beginner in modern Internet communities for such portraits will face a flurry of criticism and ridicule from professionals. But photos of Richard Avedon, even with this condition, do not lose their “hypnotic” qualities. According to them, any photographer can learn not the compositions and light, but the ability to read human faces and souls.
Avedon shot not only in the studio and with the use of professional lighting and equipment, but also on the streets. His reportage portfolio includes street portraits of New Yorkers, portraits of Italians and various scenes from everyday human life. Reportage shots of the photographer, as well as his work from other genres, are distinguished by a subtle sense of the decisive moment and competent construction of the form. For the modern photographer, these photographs were and remain an excellent educational material for understanding photographic composition.