Avedon in Fashion: A Brilliant New Show

A long-awaited exhibition of Richard Avedons range is its depth. The New York Times has a nice preview of the exhibition today, including an audio guide through the material by curators Carol Squiers and Vince Aletti.

A long-awaited exhibition of Richard Avedon's fashion photography opens tomorrow at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Part of a series of exhibitions of fashion photography, the new show features wonderful prints of many of the Avedon images we have come to know so well over the years. More important than the show's range is its depth. The New York Times has a nice preview of the exhibition today, including an audio guide through the material by curators Carol Squiers and Vince Aletti. There is a great deal of interesting cultural history represented in the show, which Squiers admirably describes in the audio guide. In this particular case, the history is less important to me than the personality of Avedon himself—a personality that simply permeates the work in this show. In his fashion work, Avedon seemed to somehow transform energy into spectacle. The elegance, the beauty, and the physical description in the images are byproducts of this transformation. These are wonderful qualities for fashion images to have, and other photographers have copied Avedon in an effort to replicate his success. But the elegance and the beauty seem secondary in Avedon's own work, and not the primary quality. Fashion becomes a life force in his images, not simply art direction. He wasn't capturing a look, but the vibrancy of exquisite life itself. Squiers mentions that he became famous for having happy, smiling women in many of his pictures, and that is indeed where you can feel Avedon himself, at his most wonderful.--David Schonauer