Monday, February 20, 2006

Fashion, Photography, and Richard Avedon

Last night I was watching the Style Channel and saw some snippets of Richard Avedon. That made me remember . . .

I was a young girl in the late fifties when I was first exposed to fashion, or at least the idea of fashion. At that time my understanding of fashion came from Doris Day movies which often included a fashion show scene or Loretta Young’s TV show where she made dramatic, flowing entrances in the most glamorous gowns. I probably thought I might grow up to be cute and perky like Miss Day, or elegant like Miss Young.

But I really became interested and even excited when I saw some Richard Avedon photographs.

I didn’t do much about it except try to select nice clothes, but then I went to college. My major was Advertising and that required a concentration – less than a major but more than a minor. My concentration was fashion design. My major was Advertising, so I was interested in presenting the styles, through sketches or maybe, just maybe -- photography. I took classes in Advertising, in fashion, and in photography. I adopted Richard Avedon as my mentor (in absentia, of course, since he didn’t know me.)

So that’s my experience with Richard Avedon. He and Irving Penn were credited with revolutionizing fashion photography through their work with Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

Although fashion made him famous, his preferred subject was portraiture. He took series of celebrity shots as diverse as Marilyn Monroe, the Chicago 7 on trial, and top politicians during a presidential campaign. He also liked the common man photographed in their own environments. For a sample of photos including fashion and simple Americans, click on Gallery.

Richard Avedon died at 91 while on a photo shoot for The New Yorker. Ninety-one, still working, still doing a good job.

Today’s fashion shoots are focused on the bottom line, on putting the outfits on display for sale. Most pictures sell the dress instead of the feeling of the fashion. I could be wrong, maybe there is a new dynamic photographer I haven't seen. I miss Richard Avedon’s style.

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