May 15 ~ Control & the Uncontrollable The Sixties

"I think all art is about control - the encounter between control and the uncontrollable." ~ Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

A genius of realism and imagination, fashion photographer Richard Avedon (19232004) was born on this day in New York, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants. He discovered his passion for photography at age 12, taking pictures in Central Park with his Kodak camera.

"We all perform," he said.

A staff photographer at Harper's Bazaar (1946-1965) and Vogue (1966-1970), Avedon had his own studio by age 23. His portraits of some of the world's best-known personalities were shot against his signature white background. The passionate artist created a magnificent portfolio, celebrating art and culture with unequalled creativity.

"My photographs don't go below the surface," he once said. "They don't go below anything. They're readings of what's on the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues."

The revolutionary photographer was the inspiration for Fred Astaire's debonair character, Dick Avery, in the film Funny Face (1957). "I had to teach Fred Astaire to be me," he recalled. "After wanting to be him all my life."

His photos were controversial, not always flattering, vibrant, and brutally honest. He made careers, he froze history. Whether it was Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jacques Cousteau, Andy Warhol, or Marilyn Monroe. "Faces," he once said, "are the ledgers of our experience."

"I've photographed just about everyone in the world," he said. "But what I hope to do is photograph people of accomplishment, not celebrity, and help define the difference once again."

More PHOTOGRAPHY Quotations

Control and let go.