Richard Avedon

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Richard Avedon, 2004

Richard Avedon (born May 15, 1923 in New York City , † October 1, 2004 in San Antonio , Texas ) was an American photographer . He is one of the most important photographers of the 20th century .


Richard Avedon was born to Russian Jewish immigrants . At the age of 14 he worked as a writer with James Baldwin . After his time in the military, Avedon studied with Alexey Brodovitch in New York at the Design Laboratory . His first job as a photographer was from the photographer Lillian Bassman, who was the artistic director of Junior Bazaar magazine . In 1946 he founded the Richard Avedon Studio in New York; from then on he worked for the New Yorker and mainly photographed portraits for him. From 1945 to 1965 he worked as a photographer for the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaaractive, where he was strongly influenced by the style of the photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe . From 1947 Avedon also worked for Vogue .

As early as 1950, the Art Directors Club in New York awarded him the Highest Achievement Medal . Avedon's career was filmed in the 1957 musical A Sweet Face . Fred Astaire played the role of the fashion photographer Dick Avery . Avedon himself worked on the film as a visual consultant.

Avedon was first known as a fashion photographer , although he was groundbreaking through his imaginative design. He was the first to leave the studio and photograph haute couture in everyday surroundings. His picture for the Dior Collection, in which the American model Dovima poses in a stable in front of chained circus elephants, became famous.

In addition to fashion photography, Avedon turned to portrait photography. He documented protagonists of the US civil rights movement in the southern states in 1963. He went to clinics and portrayed mentally ill people there, and photographed Vietnamese children who had been burned by napalm in the war .

Avedon was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2001).

His first marriage was to model and actress Doe Avedon . In 1951 he married Evelyn Franklin, with whom he had a son, John Avedon. She died on March 13, 2004.

Avedon died on October 1, 2004 at the age of 81 of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage in Texas, when he was taking photos for an election report there.


Avedon's portrait photographs are famous for the enormous openness that reveals the inner strengths and weaknesses of the people portrayed . He probably reached the peak of this openness with a series (the last seven pictures in the volume Portraits ) that shocked the public: over a period of months, he captured the slow death of his father in a harrowing and still brutal series of pictures which shows the decay of this strong, beloved personality to the point of retreating on itself in unadorned and dissecting exact images.

While his portraits, for example, of unknown migrant workers from the American West (in the book In the American West ) were perceived as destructive and outrageously un-American, many personalities from politics and culture made it a point to be photographed by him. This often resulted in images that have entered the collective memory, for example by Ezra Pound , Marilyn Monroe , Charlie Chaplin , Brigitte Bardot , The Beatles , Igor Stravinsky , John Ford or Henry Kissinger (who is said to have asked Avedon before the meeting: “Be Have mercy on me! ”).

His puristic style of the later years was characterized by the work with a large format camera with which he photographed the subjects in front of a white canvas and without any further technical aids.

His more recent works include the series Brandenburg Gate , in which he captured the celebrating crowd at the Brandenburg Gate on New Year's Eve 1989 in contradicting, reduced images.

Countless exhibitions, retrospectives and prizes recognized Richard Avedon's creative power and originality. His book Evidence: 1944–1994 was awarded the French photography prize Prix ​​Nadar .

Martin Schoeller followed him in his work as “house photographer” for The New Yorker .


"Without photography, the moment is lost forever, as if it never existed."

- Richard Avedon


  • Observations , text by Truman Capote, Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1959.
  • Nothing Personal , text by James Baldwin, Atheneum. 1964.
  • With regard to texts by James Baldwin. Lucerne: Bucher 1969.
  • Portraits , New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1976; German: Munich 2003.
  • Photographs 1947–1977, 30 years of his fashion photographs , essay by Harold Brodkey, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 1978.
  • In the American West 1985.
  • Richard Avedon , catalog (portraits) for the exhibition on the occasion of the awarding of the Hasselblad Prize, Göteborg 1991.
  • To Autobiography , Random House, Inc. 1993.
  • Evidence: 1944–1994 , with essays by Jane Livingston and Adam Gopnik, Random House, Inc. 1994.
  • The Sixties , Richard Avedon and Doon Arbus, Random House, Inc. 1999.
  • The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family , Text: S. Th. Perich, Preface: R. Dallek .



  • L. Fritz Gruber (Ed.): Great Photographers of our Century. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt, 1964, p. 186 ff.
  • Norma Stevens & Steven ML Aronson: Avedon: something personal , New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2017, ISBN 978-0-8129-9443-8 .

Web links

Commons : Richard Avedon  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Book of Members. Retrieved July 23, 2016 .
  2. ^ Richard Avedon in: The Guardian
  3. Paid Notice: Deaths AVEDON, EVELYN FRANKLIN . In: The New York Times , March 16, 2004. 
  4. ^ Announcement on the exhibition , accessed on August 6, 2014.