Avedon’s Women



By Shereen Shabnam

Photographers are the unsung heroes of the media world. Afterall, what makes the Tabloids successful is not so much the gossip, which often leaves readers confused what’s real and what’s not but photos do not lie. I came to this realization more than ever on a recent visit to Los Angeles and a visit to the Gagosian Beverly Hills which was hosting “Avedon: Women,” an exhibition that spans six decades of Richard Avedon’s photography

His photos are known to people worldwide and without doubt, made many international celebrities known throughout the world. What I saw was the first solo exhibition of Avedon’s work in the Los Angeles area since 1976. From the beginning of his career as a fashion photographer in the1940s, Avedon was renowned for his distinctive and transformative imagery of women.

Avedon’s inventiveness, humor, and versatile talent flourished throughout sixty years of capturing both well-known and anonymous female subjects, ranging from celebrities and models to his friends and family. His images were imbued with an unconventional beauty and formidable intelligence.

More than 100 silver gelatin photographs formed the core of the exhibition. Ranging from oversized exhibition prints dating from the artist’s 1978 showing at The etropolitan Museum of Art, New York, to more intimately scaled photographs that he printed and editioned throughout his lifetime, the exhibition emphasizes the striking visual connections that lie beyond chronology or subject matter.

The first sets of prints at the entrance were large, impressively massive and the rest of the photos unfold over three additional rooms, two of which highlight contact sheets. I was particularly drawn to the room with an impressive floor-to-ceiling collage of his framed photographs. Approximately 300 contact prints, drawn from the Foundation’s extensive archive of sittings, reveal the tremendous range of subjects that Avedon photographed: musician Ella Fitzgerald; Avedon’s adored sister, Louise; and the young actress Elizabeth Taylor, among many.

The range of photographs shows the artists’ versatility, humor, technical ingenuity and love of surprise. My personal favourite were the Marilyn Monroe images as I was always drawn to them.

It is incredible the wide range of ages, types, personalities of the women Avedon photographed that are famous. One gets drawn to the types of photos Avedon took of popular stars but viewing the his women subjects under one roof makes you appreciate how well Avedon was able to capture the feminine beauty, intelligence and personal narratives of each of his subjects.

He received a Master of Photography Award from the International Center of Photography and his work is included in the collections of MoMA, the Smithsonian, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with countless other museums and institutions worldwide.

Richard Avedon established The Richard Avedon Foundation during his lifetime. Based in New York, the Foundation is the repository for Avedon’s photographs, negatives, publications, papers, and archival materials.

The exhibition left me personally and professionally enriched and gave me an entirely new perspective in selecting images for publishing with articles I write. Inspiring exhibition indeed and a show that will appeal to many of our female readers as well as photographers in the fashion industry who see Avedon as a mentor and guide. It certainly evokes new appreciation in the hard work of media photographers who have a huge impact on the success of a media house.