Richard Avedon: Fashion’s Revolutionary Photographer

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Few fashion photographers pushed the art forward at a faster pace than Richard Avedon. Avedon expanded on techniques already established by cameramen like Martin Munkacsi to create stunning photo shoots that challenged the conventions of photography at that time.

Avedon joined Harper’s in 1944, first creating sets to appear in Harper’s Junior Bazaar. It took only a year for his sets to appear in the Bazaar proper, and he’d set up his own studio not too long after that. At the time, fashion photography employed mannequins, or mannequin-like models, to engineer the perfect shot. Lighting and perspective took the place of emotion and expression. Models were lifeless, the emphasis being only on the garments worn.

Avedon challenged that model by asking his subjects to run, smile, laugh and display emotion. His shoots occurred outdoors, where he could better capture the playful nature of his subjects. Although these open-air settings eventually bored him, Avedon set the precedents that would define fashion photography for generations to come.

He was a favorite of Diana Vreeland, and joined her at Vogue when she left Harper’s Bazaar. He did the recurring advertisements for Gianni Versace, and shot the famous Calvin Klein jeans shoot featuring a 15-year old Brooke Shields.

While his work defined fashion photography, he would become fascinated by the portrait in later life. Studying famous people such as Buster Keaton, Marilyn Monroe and Ezra Pound, Avedon became obsessed with trying to capture the essence of his subjects through portrait work.

Samuel Phineas Uphamis an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Samual Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.

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