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The Story Behind That Picture:

"Understanding Richard Avedon"

By: Thorsten Overgaard

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Composition is first and foremost storytelling. Richard Avedon’s photographs from the 1940’s and 1950’s are stellar examples of how to tell a story in a single photograph

 


Richard Avedon: Junior Bazar, June 1946

 

Composition is to see the world within a frame. To see and decide what has to be in the frame and what does not have to be in the frame to tell the story in mind.

I find Richard Avedon interesting because his “early photographs” were centered on the body in movement.

There is a strong element of simple, elegant composition and use of shadows.

 


Storytelling is a strong element in Richard Avedon photographs in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Here Suzy Parker and Robin Tattersall in an evening dress by Griffe (Moulin Rouge, Paris 1957).

 

 
 

 

 

 

His main communication in the 1940’s and 1950‘s was empowerment of women as strong, beautiful and independent.

His main elements in his fashion photography were some times simple aesthetics by movement of the body (often acrobatic) that signals freedom and happiness by stretching out and reaching out; as if the possibilities are endless.

Storytelling about living the highlife, and the elegance of being a woman.

 


Richard Avedon

 

First and foremost his photographs were fun. It’s a much higher state of being to be in movement and on a life adventure, than sitting in apathy, as in later and current fashion photography.

I am not advocating that the old days where the best days, but in fashion and fashion photography, we could do with some of the qualities Richard Avedon introduced in his 1940’s and 1950’s photography.

 


Very much Richard Avedon: Veruschka dress by Kimberly, New York 1968

 

In today’s fashion the women is not a woman anymore. Fashion is often directed by a man who wants to be a woman, creating a universe of almost jealous admiration. In my view, that is why today’s fashion is often men as women and women as men.

It’s interesting that when Richard Avedon portrayed men – as he did for example of the entire Kennedy administration in the 1960’s – he portrayed them as powerful on an almost godlike level. I happened to speak with one of the people in the portraits, and they recalled them as the best portraits ever. As a one-photo statement of how they would like to be remembered in this life.

It should be fuel for some interesting thoughts next time you have to do a portrait of a woman or a man.

 


Bob Dylan by Richard Avedon, 1960’s. Maybe not powerful in the political sense, but independent and very Bob Dylan-ish.

 

In the 1960’s the women started becoming an object, and also this is in the style of Richard Avedon. He follows the general trend of fashion from the 1960’s and onward. But I still sense the true Richard Avedon view on women and men shining through even then.

Let’s not forget that fashion photography almost killed Helmut Newton. It’s a though business. But Helmut Newton returned to fashion for the money and the access to beautiful women; and suffered a hearth attack.

What I mean is that the photographer is not always the one deciding the message and style of his fashion photography.

 

 

Woman reduced to an object in the 1960’s photography. Here in the Richard Avedon style for Raalte Bahamas knitwear worn by Lauren Hutton. This picture sold at Christies for $31,000, by the way.

 

Trends in fashion photography

The trends in fashion photography are, stated shortly as I see them:
1940’s: The powerful and beautiful Woman.
1950’s: The Woman as an Explorer of the World (with slutty men).
1960’s: Woman as a Material Object.
1970’s: The Celebrity Woman.
1980’s: The Woman as a Gym or Disco Queen (and the super models).
1990’s: Perverted Mysticism and “Heroin Chic“.
2000’s: The Artificial Woman.
2010’s: Woman as Men and Men as Women (and the pop stars and movie stars as models; the brands rely on others star brand to lean onto for rather than taking the risk creating their own).

 

Richard Avedon in Paris, 1948. Shoe by Perugia.

 

 

 

 

Books

Avedon Fashion 1944-2000
Avedon: Photographs 1947-1977
Richard Avedon Portraits
The Kennedys
Avedon: Murals and Portraits

Woman in the Mirror

 

Thorsten Overgaard, May 12, 2015

 

 

           
 

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leica.overgaard.dk
Thorsten Overgaard's Leica Article Index
Leica M cameras:   Small Leica cameras:
Leica M10   Leica Q full-frame mirrorless
Leica M10-P   Leica CL
Leica M Type 240 and M-P Typ240   Leica TL2
Leica M-D Typ 262 and Leica M60   Leica Digilux 2 vintage digital rangefinder
Leica M Monochrom Typ246 digital rangefinder   Leica Digilux 1
Leica M Monochrom MM digital rangefinder   Leica Sofort instant camera
Leica M9 and Leica M-E digital rangefinder   Leica Minilux 35mm film camera
Leica M9-Professional digital rangefinder   Leica CM 35mm film camera
Leica M4 35mm film rangefinder    
     
Leica M lenses:   Leica SLR cameras:
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica SL 2015 Type 601 mirrorless fullframe
Leica 21mm Leica Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4   Leica R8/R9/DMR film & digital 35mm dSLR cameras
Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4   Leica R10 [cancelled]
Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica R4 35mm film SLR
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE f/1.4 and f/1.4 AA   Leica R3 electronic 35mm film SLR
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leicaflex SL/SL mot 35mm film SLR
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95    
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0 and f/1.2   Leica SL and TL lenses:
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f//1.4    
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0    
Leitz 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 "rigid" Series II   Leica R lenses:
Leica 75mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/1.25   Leica 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4   Leica 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 75mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 50mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit f/2.8
Leica 90mm Summarit-M f/2.5   Leica 80mm Summilux-F f/1.4
Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8   Leica 90mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leitz 90mm Thambar f/2.2   Leica 180mm R lenses
    Leica 400mm Telyt-R f/6.8
Leica Cine Lenses:   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica Cine lenses from CW Sonderoptic   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/4.0
     
     
History and overview:   Leica S:
Leica History   Leica S1 digital scan camera
Leica Definitions   Leica S2 digital medium format
Leica Lens Compendium   Leica S digital medium format
Leica Camera Compendium    
The Solms factory and Leica Wetzlar Campus   "Magic of Light" Television Channel
    Thorsten von Overgaard YouTube Channel
     
Photography Knowledge   Thorsten Overgaard books and education:
Calibrating computer screen for photographers   Thorsten Overgaard Masterclasses & Workshops
Which Computer for Photographers?   Lightroom Survival Kit (Classic)
What is Copyright? Advice for Photogarphers   Lightroom Presets
Synchronizing Large Photo Archive with iPhone   Capture One Survival Kit
Quality of Light   "Finding the Magic of Light" eBook (English)
Lightmeters   "Die Magie des Lichts Finden" eBook (German)
Color meters for accurate colors (White Balance)   "The Moment of Impact in Photography" eBook
White Balance & WhiBal   "Freedom of Photographic Expression" eBook
Film in Digital Age   "Composition in Photography" eBook
Dodge and Burn   "A Little Book on Photography" eBook
All You Need is Love   "After the Tsunami" Free eBook
How to shoot Rock'n'Roll   The Overgaard New Inspiration Extension Course I
X-Rite   The Overgaard Photography Extension Course
The Origin of Photography    
Hasselblad/Imacon Flextight 35mm and 6x6 scanner   Leica M9 Masterclass (video course)
Leica OSX folder icons   Leica M10 Masterclass (video course)
    Leica M240 Masterclass (video course)
    Leica Q Masterclass (video course)
Bespoke Camera Bags by Thorsten Overgaard:   Leica TL2 Quick Start (video course)
"The Von" travel camera bag   Street Photography Masterclass (video course)
"Messenger" walkabout bag    
"24hr Bag" travel bag   Thorsten von Overgaard oin Amazon:
"The Von Backup" camera backpack   "Finding the Magic of Light"
     
     
Leica Photographers:    
Jan Grarup   Riccis Valladares
Henri Cartier-Bresson   Christopher Tribble
Birgit Krippner   Martin Munkácsi
John Botte   Jose Galhoz
 
Douglas Herr   Milan Swolf
Vivian Maier  
Morten Albek    
Byron Prukston   Richard Avedon
     
The Story Behind That Picture:   Thorsten Overgaard on Instagram
More than 200 articles by Thorsten Overgaard   Join the Thorsten Overgaard Mailing List
Thorsten Overgaard Workshop Schedule   Thorsten Overgaard on Twitter
    Thorsten Overgaard on Facebook
Leica Forums and Blogs:    
Leica M10 / M240 / M246 User Forum on Facebook   Heinz Richter's Leica Barnack Berek Blog
Jono Slack   Leica Camera AG
Steve Huff Photos (reviews)   Leica Fotopark
Erwin Puts (reviews)   The Leica Pool on Flickr
LeicaRumors.com (blog)   Eric Kim (blog)
Luminous Landscape (reviews)   Adam Marelli (blog)
Sean Reid Review (reviews)   The Leica User Forum
Ken Rockwell (reviews)   Shoot Tokyo (blog)
John Thawley (blog)   I-Shot-It photo competition
     
 
 
The Von Overgaard Gallery Store:    
Hardware for Photography   Von Overgaard Ventilated lens shades:
Bespoke Camera Bags and Luxury Travel Bags   Ventilated Shade for Current 35mm Summilux FLE
Software for Photography   Ventilated Shade E46 for old Leica 35mm/1.4 lens
Signed Prints   Ventilated Shade for Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH
Mega Size Signed Prints   Ventilated Shade E43 for older 50mm Summilux
Mega Size Signed Limited Prints   Ventilated Shade for 35mm Summicron-M ASPH
Medium Size Signed Limited Prints   Ventilated Shade for older 35mm/f2 lenses
Small Size Signed Limited Prints   Ventilated Shade E39 for 50mm Summicron lenses
Commisioning Thorsten Overgaard Worldwide   Ventilated Shade for Leica 28mm Summilux
Thorsten Overgaard Archive Licencing   Ventilated Shade for current 28mm Elmarit-M
Video Masterclasses   Ventilated Shade for older 28mm Elmarti-M
Photography Books by Thorsten Overgaard   Ventilated Shade E49 for 75mm Summicron
Home School Photography Extension Courses   ventilated Shade E55 for 90mm Summicron
Overgaard Workshops & Masterclasses   Ventilated Shade for 28mm Summaron
Artists Nights   Ventilated Shade for 24mm Elmarit
Gallery Store Specials   Ventilated Shade E60 for 50mm Noctilux and 75/1.4
 

Above: Richard Avedon: Junior Bazar, June 1946.


 


Also visit:

Overgaard Photography Workshops
Von Overgaard Gallery Store
Von Overgaard Ventilated Shades
Thorsten Overgaard Books
Leica Definitions
Leica History
"Photographer For Sale"
Leica Lens Compendium
Leica Camera Compendium
Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4

Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M f/2.0
Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4
Leica 75mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/1.25
Leica 90mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica Cine lenses from CW Sonderoptic
Leica Digilux 2

Leica M10
Leica M10-P
Leica M9, M9-P and Leica ME
Leica M 240
Leica M 240 Video
Leica M 262
Leica M-D 262
Leica M Monochrom
Leica M 246 Monochrom

Leica SL full-frame mirrorless
Leica R9 and R8 SLR with digital back
Leica Q
Leica CL
Leica TL2
Leica Sofort
Leica S digital medium format
Leica X
"On The Road With von Overgaard"
Light metering
White Balance for More Beauty
Color Meters

Screen Calibration
Which computer to get
Sync'ing photo archive to iPhone
Lightroom Survival Kit 7
Capture One Survival Kit 11

The Story Behind That Picture

Von Overgaard Masterclasses:
M10 / M9 / M240 / Q / TL2 / SL

 

 

 

Richard Avedon
(May 15, 1923 - Oct 1, 2004)

 

 

Overgaard Photo Workshops

 

 



Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

Feel free to e-mail to thorsten@overgaard.dk for
advice, ideas or improvements.

 

 
           
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