Richard Avedon: Redefining Fashion Photography

Richard Avedon was the most influential fashion photographer of the post-war era, and his enduring images helped to define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the second half of the twentieth century.

At the age of twenty-two, Avedon began working as a freelance photographer, primarily for Harper’s Bazaar. Initially denied the use of a studio by the magazine, he photographed models out on the streets. Harper’s Bazaar was quick to celebrate the newly liberated Paris, and the mid 1940s saw a focus on the post-war stirrings in French Couture. Many of Avedon’s images from this period were taken in and around Paris, with his models placed in glamorous, stereotypical french environments such as cafés and nightclubs. Avedon took a uniquely American energy to France and quickly became well known for his talent at finding new and innovative ways to photograph fashion.

For this particular scene Avedon set his model, Elise Daniels, in amongst the fracas of a lively street scene in Le Marais, Paris. Avedon uses a decrepit Marais apartment block as a dramatic backdrop to the action at street level. This wonderful and evocative scene highlights Avedon’s unparalleled ability to create visual tension through the use of contrast, wit and surprise in his compositions.

Avedon was a fastidious printer, stating “to get a satisfactory print, one that contains all you intended, is very often more difficult and dangerous than the sitting itself. When I’m photographing, I immediately know when I’ve got the image I really want. But to get the image out of the camera and into the open is another matter. I make as many as sixty prints of a picture, and would make a hundred if it would mean a fraction’s improvement.” This silver gelatin print is an immaculate example of Avedon’s printing precision and expertise, and comes from the series of limited editions that he made from the mid 1970s onwards.

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