Avedon, Richard, 1923–2004, American photographer, b. New York City. Son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, he studied philosophy at Columbia, served in the photographic section of the U.S. Merchant Marine during World War II, then studied photography at the New School. As a staff photographer for Harper's Bazaar (1945–65) and Vogue (1966–90), Avedon redefined fashion photography as an art form in which realism mixed with fantasy; he also became known for his arresting celebrity pictures. From 1992 until his death, he was a staff photographer for the New Yorker. In his earlier work he used outdoor settings with models in motion. His later work predominantly consists of studio portraits taken mainly in black and white with strobe lighting against a plain white background. Stark, with uncompromising realism, these images of the famous and unknown gain further impact from the larger-than-life format in which they are often printed. His books include Nothing Personal (text by James Baldwin, 1964; a work that revealed his social conscience), Portraits (1976), In the American West (1985), An Autobiography (1993), Made in France (2001), and Avedon Fashion: 1944–2000 (2009).
See oral history by N. Stevens and S. M. S. Aronson (2018); biography by P. Gefter (2020).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Avedon, Richard(1923– ) photographer; born in New York City. A product of the public schools, he was a fashion photographer for Harper's (1945–65) and a student of Alexey Brodovitch. Known for his stark portraits of people in unusual poses, he published his first book of celebrity portraits, Observations, in 1959. In 1963 he left his studio to photograph the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-War movement, winning a national magazine award for visual excellence in 1976.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.