Show Spotlights Avedon's Melancholy Fashion Genius

Major retrospective looks at photographer's legacy
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2009 9:37 AM CDT
British model Jean Shrimpton poses for a shoot while American photographer Richard Avedon lies on the floor, taking a camera from an assistant, in 1965.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – For 60 years Richard Avedon was the quintessential fashion photographer, and his black-and-white images established an ideal of beauty for a generation. Now, 5 years after his death, the International Center of Photography in New York is mounting a retrospective of Avedon’s fashion work. For Times critic Cathy Horyn, his career was a “plea for beauty,” even if beauty “had an element of tragedy.”

Avedon learned to take pictures in the merchant marine during World War II; his collaborations with editor Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue produced legendary photos, but a melancholy pervades much of his work—perhaps linked to the death of his sister, a beautiful woman committed to a mental institution. For Avedon, Horyn writes, “beauty could be intoxicating but, equally, impoverishing to the soul.”