PORTRAITS OF POWER AVEDON’S WORKS FINALLY IN WA
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.”
Christopher Chapman and Katrina Dumas with an enormous
portrait of literary critic Harold Bloom.