Richard Avedon was an American photographer, born to Jewish/Russian immigrants in New York City. He grew up with fashion as an influence in his daily life with his parents owning and running Avedon Department store on 5th Avenue.
Avedon studied at Columbia University briefly before landing a job as an id picture photographer with the camera his father had given him as a gift. He got his first photography job in the fashion business as an advertisement photographer for a dress company. Alexey Brodovitch, the art director for Harper’s Bazaar, soon discovered him in 1944. It was post WWII and Harper’s Bazaar was trying to bring back the glamour of pre-war Paris. Avedon did not like the current trend of perfectly posed and arranged models and preferred to capture his models in action and to put them in situations that told a story. In doing so he created a new standard for fashion photography. Avedon worked as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and later, Vogue Magazine to support his personal projects. He traveled for a while taking photojournalism pictures in places like Vietnam but decided that he would rather be a creator than an observer. His personal love in photography was the face. He made portraits of people where the only subject was the face. There were no backgrounds, no props, nothing to take away from what he was truly interested in. Avedon was not interested in taking nice, flattering portraits that one could see displayed on a mantle piece. He wanted to capture moments of pure emotion. During his photo sessions he would often talk to his subject, studying them and then carefully saying what he believed would invoke an emotional response. During his photo session of the Duke and Duchess of Wellington, he was not satisfied with their “ladies home journal” poses. He noticed that they had their pug dogs with them and observed their love for dogs. He then said, “ If I seem to hesitate tonight, forgive me, I’m a little disturbed. My cab driver ran over a dog on my way over here.” When their faces fell he took the picture that captured their sadness for the poor deceased dog. He was always prying a little here and there to get the emotional response he needed for his art. Avedon always stated that although the face of the subject does not belong to him, he does have absolute control over the situation at all times in order to create the image needed. Avedon said that he always photographed what he didn’t understand or what he feared. In the beginning of his career as a young man it was women, then it was illness, poverty and loss.
In another of his photo sessions he was to photograph Marilyn Monroe. Avedon stated that Marilyn Monroe didn’t exist. She was a creation of Norma Jean’s. When Avedon was shooting Marilyn Monroe, she did Marilyn Monroe. She danced and sang and flirted and twirled around the set for hours. At the end of the night she sat in the corner like a little girl and everything had left her. He never photographed her without her knowledge and as he walked up to her with the camera, she saw he was going to take her picture and