Magazine article USA TODAY

Portraits by Richard Avedon. (Focus on America)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Portraits by Richard Avedon. (Focus on America)

Article excerpt

RICHARD AVEDON'S success in fashion photography is widely recognized. Unlike his fashion work, however, most of Avedon's portraits do not rise from commercial assignments, but from personal conviction, and are solicited by the artist himself. Each is a virtuoso reckoning with human complexities and contradictions, as well as a powerful expression of his distinctive vision.

With uncompromising directness, Avedon portrays his subjects against a bright, white seamless background, with no props or extraneous details to distract from the essential specificity of face, gaze, dress, and gesture. When everything essential is stripped away, what remains is an extraordinary intensity of characterization. The people in his photographs seem posed to walk right out of their frames, immediately recognizable and wholly alive, down to the most-telling detail.

Avedon was born in 1923 in New York City. In 1942, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine Photographic Department and, when he returned to civilian life, attended the Design Laboratory taught at The New School in New York by famed art director Alexey Brodovitch. …

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