Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Art - Tanya MacNaughton

NEW York pho­tog­ra­pher Richard Ave­don has been de­scribed as one of the most sig­nif­i­cant and in­flu­en­tial por­traitists of his time.

The sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury was a pe­riod of tu­mul­tuous so­cial changes when he pushed bound­aries and doc­u­mented the power of those changes through his por­traits of the peo­ple, both fa­mous and every­day Americans, in pub­li­ca­tions such as Harper’s Bazaar to Vogue.

It is there­fore sur­pris­ing that there had never been an ex­hi­bi­tion of Ave­don’s work in Aus­tralia un­til last year in Can­berra, after Na­tional Por­trait Gallery se­nior cu­ra­tor Christo­pher Chap­man ap­proached The Richard Ave­don Foun­da­tion.

That ex­hi­bi­tion Richard Ave­don Peo­ple is show­ing at Art Gallery of WA un­til Novem­ber 17 and showcases 81 vin­tage prints, gela­tine sil­ver photographs pro­duced by Ave­don at his stu­dio dur­ing his lifetime.

“I think one of the great­est plea­sures work­ing with this ma­te­rial is how raw the images are and how ten­der the images are,” Dr Chap­man said.

“I think the ex­hi­bi­tion will res­onate very strongly with a di­verse au­di­ence be­cause no mat­ter what our ex­pe­ri­ence of life may be, all of the peo­ple Ave­don has pho­tographed, whether they are the most pho­tographed such as Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe or some­one on the street in Har­lem dur­ing the 1940s, they share our hu­man­ity.

“The stripped back im­age of a per­son against a white back­ground, with all the clues about them taken away, was Ave­don’s in­no­va­tion and was a style he ar­rived at in the 1960s and has been much im­i­tated since.”

Ave­don died in 2004, while in his 80s and work­ing as a staff re­porter for The New Yorker, and passed along his vast ar­chive of work to The Richard Ave­don Foun­da­tion with the con­di­tion there was to be no post­hu­mous print­ing.

Ex­hi­bi­tion co-or­di­na­tor Ka­t­rina Du­mas has worked at the foun­da­tion, based in Mid­town Man­hat­tan, for three years and trav­elled to Perth for the in­stal­la­tion.

“There are thou­sands of nega­tives just sit­ting in our ar­chive,” Du­mas said.

“We can al­ways ex­hibit things as ob­jects but we can’t make prints, we can’t make de­ci­sions on crop or con­trast or any­thing so they just have to live as they are.

“Why? Be­cause it wouldn’t be an Ave­don. It would be who­ever else came after.

“He was the cre­ative mind be­hind his art­work so if he wasn’t able to main­tain that cre­ative con­trol over some­thing, he would rather it not be printed.”

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson

Christo­pher Chap­man and Ka­t­rina Du­mas with an enor­mous

por­trait of lit­er­ary critic Harold Bloom.

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