Richard Avedon - A Few Thoughts


Classic photographers

One of the very first photography shows I went to was the big Richard Avedon retrospective they had somewhere in Cologne. It must have been about ten years ago, I can’t say for sure, and I knew nothing about photography and very little about art.

There was something about the photos that struck me. The portraits were very honest and very revealing - especially the ones that weren’t too obviously staged. And they were big. You could see every pore, and it wasn’t always flattering for the people whose photos Richard Avedon had taken.

There also was a certain timeless beauty about the photos. I don’t think the photos will get this somehow dated look that we know from, say, Karsh’s portraits; maybe Avedon’s work is closer to Horst’s. Horst’s photos only look a little dated because people dressed differently.

Since I got the subscription of New Yorker magazine (read their obituary), I have seen many photos by Richard Avedon, maybe too many. I’ve always felt that despite his obvious genius as a photographer Avedon wasn’t able to produce good work every week - the occasional masterpiece notwithstanding (such as the portraits of Michael Moore - shown on Avedon’s website). But now that he is gone I will miss seeing the photos, I’m sure.

Through his work and through the people who copied his technique (and/or willingness to show people as they are) Richard Avedon will stay with us. Portrait photography is probably the most difficult thing you can do, and I think it will take a long time before somebody else will be able to fill those shoes again.