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Richard Avedon: Photographer of Influence

I was introduced to the photography of the late Richard Avedon when I attended the Photographing People workshop last summer in Santa Fe. Our instructor, John Weiss, shared examples of photos taken by many great photographers to open our eyes to the possibilities presented simply by a camera, your eye plus the human face and body. So when I read that the Phoenix Art Museum was staging an exhibition of Richard Avendon's work, I had to go.

Dovina With Elephants Avedon began his professional career in fashion photography working for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Life and others. An important contribution was his idea to move the fashion model out of the studio and onto the street. Or make that into the circus. Prior to Avedon, fashion photography was almost always done in a studio. He did use the studio as well --- but what an impact of his non-studio images.

Homage to Munkasci This fashion shot was called "Homage to Munkasci". This is a tribute to Martin Munkasci (John also shared some of his photographs in our workshop) who started as a sports photographer and pioneered the use of sports' dynamism, speed and energy in other types of photography. I am blown away by Avendon's capture of this woman in mid-air with no motion blur. Yet is is obvious that she was jumping (rather than hung by a wire, for instance) because of the vertical movement of the back of her coat. Wow!

de Ribes and De Larrain Even in the studio, Avedon's style stands out. Here are Vicomtesse Jacqueline de Ribes and Raymondo de Larrani (the evening dress is by Dior). This photograph draws me in and makes me want to know more about these people — who they are, what kind of lives they lead, their conversation, and on and on.

Marilyn Monroe And it is his portraits that really touch me. Here is Marilyn Monroe — not as the glamorous movie star, but very much a real, vulnerable human being. I love it!

Bob Dylan And who do we find in Central Park? Mr. Bob Dylan. Incredible.

The Beatles And don't forget The Beatles!

Vladimir Horowitz Or Vladimir Horowictz.

Coal Miner Avedon was also drawn to ordinary people. He published several projects including In the American West where he photographed miners, oil field workers, etc. in their soiled work clothes. Some people criticized Avedon for showing what they considered a disparaging view of America. However, others recognized how he captured the dignity of these unsung Americans, contributing to our national lifestyle without a moment's recognition. I was particularly moved by this portrait of Hansel Nicholas Burum, a coal miner in Colorado. You can see the fatigue but also the dignity of this hard-working man.

Obviously, I could go on for hours. The exhibition was wonderful — and highly recommended for anyone living in the Phoenix area — or visiting to attend the Super Bowl. For anyone else who has enjoyed this sample of Avedon's work, you can see more at his foundation's web site — www.richardavedon.com and/or the Artsy Team's website — www.artsy.net/artist/richard-avedon.

 Life is good.

 B. David