Photographer Richard Avedon
(American, 1923–2004) is renowned for his striking, intimate, and dynamic portraits
of prominent 20th century figures, as well as images of mental patients, circus performers, and others living on the fringes of society. Born in New York, Avedon joined the military in 1942 before graduating high school, and after returning to the United States in 1944, began working as a department store photographer.
He was employed by Harper’s Bazaar
art director Alexey Brodovitch a year later, and upon shooting several successful spreads for the magazine, opened his own studio. Working for Vogue
, and other publications, Avedon made his living in advertising photography while increasingly photographing celebrities
. Renowned for his minimalist aesthetic, Avedon often cropped the frame of his photographs or shot his subjects amidst an action, creating works with a candid, elegant, and intimate feel. Avedon has also worked on several portrait books of distinguished figures of the 20th century, in volumes such as Observations
, a collaboration with writer Truman Capote. In later series, Avedon photographed mentally ill individuals
in hospitals, chronicled his own father’s losing battle with cancer, and in his series In the American West
, photographed ordinary citizens
such as farmers, miners, and other representatives of working-class America. Avedon has received immense critical acclaim for both his polished celebrity portraits and for his series on everyday Americans, capturing both a dignity and immediacy in his images.
He continued to photograph for Harper’s Bazaar
, and later, The New Yorker
before his death in 2004. Avedon has been honored with awards from the Royal Photographic Society, the International Center of Photography, and Americans for the Arts. His work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Center of Photography in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museo Guggenheim in Bilbao, among many other institutions.