What would contemporary visual culture be without Richard Avedon? The famed photographer transformed fashion editorials and portrait work with his inimitable eye for emotional connection, presence and drama, and has influenced generations of artists. To celebrate his centenary in May, nearly two decades after his death in 2004, more than 150 artists, musicians, filmmakers, fashion icons and other notable public figures have selected their favorite images from his extensive portfolio to feature in a sweeping new exhibition and book, “Avedon 100.” The show is on view at Gagosian in New York.
“It is hard to get your arms around the entirety of Richard Avedon’s work and process just how enormous his influence has been,” writes Larry Gagosian, art dealer and owner, in the book. “Avedon’s unflinchingly frank aesthetic has become so much a part of the conventions of photographic portraiture it is easy to forget that he invented it.”
Gagosian collaborated with the photographer’s estate, the Avedon Foundation, to showcase six decades of his work; the images in “Avedon 100,” were chosen by figures who run the gamut of culture and media. They include supermodels Cindy Crawford, Karlie Kloss, Iman and Naomi Campbell; designers Calvin Klein and Donatella Versace; film and television stars Julianne Moore, Chloë Sevigny, Emma Watson and Kim Kardashian; artists Tyler Mitchell and Jenny Saville and political figures Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush.
Together they cover the full scope of Avedon’s career — his groundbreaking portraiture of models, Hollywood stars, politicians, social activists and everyday Americans alike.
Throughout, Avedon’s subjects recount how comfortable he made them feel on set. Pioneering African American model Pat Cleveland warmly recalled sifting through images in the darkroom with him, while Brooke Shields called his photo shoots, “a nonjudgmental exchange of creativity and an exploration of the unexpected.”
And while many artists in the book spoke to his visual influence — fashion photographers Inez and Vinoodh describe how Avedon captured every person “at their most magnificent and heightened awareness” — others, like Watson, pointed to his commitment to equity in an industry that still struggles with a legacy of racism and sexism.
“Avedon was a pioneer of allyship for diversity in the fashion world,” Watson said in the book. “We see it many times, including with his insistence that fashion magazines use images of women of color, like the time he threatened to quit working for Harper’s Bazaar if the publication didn’t run a now-iconic 1958 portrait of China Machado ashing a cigarette.”
Here, see some of Avedon’s influential images over the years, with insights from those who chose them, as told in “Avedon 100.”
“Avedon 100” is on view at Gagosian in New York through June 24.