Darkness and Light From the 1995 American Masters Series.
One of Richard Avedon's most famous images:
Dovima with the Elephants - evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955 (source)
Richard Avedon was born in 1923 in New York City where he also lived.
As a young man he joined the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) camera club. Later in life he joined the armed forces during World War II where he served as Photographer’s Mate Second Class. Alvedon later described the experience as follows:
“My job was to do identity photographs. I must have taken pictures of one hundred thousand faces before it occurred to me I was becoming a photographer."
After a couple years of work for the armed services he left to become professional photographer. In the beginning of his professional career he created primarily fashion images. He also studied with art director Alexey Brodovitch at the Design Laboratory of the New School for Social Research.
At the age of twenty-two Richard began working at Harper’s Bazaar. At the outset he was not permitted the use the magazine's studio. As such Alvedon took to the streets to photograph models, the circus, nightclubs, the beach and at other uncommon locations. With his creativity and resourcefulness Avedon quickly became the main photographer for Harper’s Bazaar.
Avedon quit Harper's Bazaar after facing a storm of criticism for his collaboration with models of color. He went onto joined Vogue for a reported $1 million dollars. From this moment on he viewed this as period of compromise in the sense that he balanced his personal work and his professional work.
Richard Alvedon worked at vogue magazine for over 20 years. After that, Avedon became the first official staff photographer at The New Yorker in 1992. To this day his portraiture had great impact the aesthetic of the publication. Whilst shooting portraits for The New Yorker his fashion photography appeared mostly in the Egoïste publication.
Some say that Avedon was widely credited with blurring or even erasing the line between commercial and art photography. Some of his clients included Versace, Revlon, Calvin Klein, Revlon, and many more. In fact he was part of some of the greatest advertising campaigns in American history.
Sadly, after suffering a brain hemorrhage while on assignment for The New Yorker, Richard Avedon died in San Antonio, Texas on October 1, 2004.
Richard Avedon on Charlie Rose