October 3, 2004 by

Richard Avedon

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Categories: Artists

Richard Avedon, a man The New York Times named “the world’s most famous photographer,” died on Oct. 1 after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 81.
The New York native once dreamed of becoming a poet, but photography was his destiny. Avedon dropped out of high school to run errands for a photographic company then enlisted in the Merchant Marine. He served with the photography branch and spent most of his service in Brooklyn taking thousands of ID pictures of servicemen.
In 1944, Avedon returned to civilian life and landed his first job as a professional photographer for Bonwit Teller department stores. His talent for creating enticing fashion shots earned him a staff position at Harper’s Bazaar, where he remained for two decades. He later worked for Vogue and The New Yorker.
Although Avedon’s fashion prints turned Suzy Parker, Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell into supermodels, it was his portraiture that enthralled editors and infuriated critics. His sharply focused black-and-white images offered unsparing views of everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol to the Chicago Seven and the Dali Lama. Even ordinary citizens took on “the Avedon look” when he captured them on film.
During the course of his illustrious five-decade career, Avedon’s images appeared in 12 books, including “An Autobiography.” In 1958, he was named one of the world’s 10 finest photographers by Popular Photography magazine. He was also one of the world’s highest paid shooters. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., both staged major Avedon retrospectives. And in 2003, he received a National Arts Award for lifetime achievement.
His final project for The New Yorker was a photo spread called “On Democracy.” For months, Avedon traveled the country taking pictures of delegates, politicians and voters. The photographs are scheduled to run before the election in November.
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2 Responses to Richard Avedon

  1. helen eging

    It is today that i learn of his death…..i was so fortunate to see his last show at the MET in 2002….and i had be wanting to write him and tell him of my experience at this show…..was it the lighting that he had so carefully planned…or was it his insightful photographs….that inspired …..and made everyone walking around this exhibition ….look like he had individually taken their portrait….it was truly a beautiful and amazing moment…everyone looked so beautifully….real….it seemed not only like a photography exhibition…but like a moving installation piece….i will never forget it….

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