Richard Avedon Darkness and Light – Reflection

This film was dedicated to exploring the ways of a man who is touted as one of the most influential fashion photographers, Richard Avedon. While the film’s content and it and Richard Avedon’s own words were profound and very thoughts provoking, it was at times hard to understand due to the editing. One case specifically was in the very beginning where people are sharing their thoughts on Avedon, here it was a tad difficult to understand what they all were saying. This happens several times throughout the video, and was somewhat annoying admittedly. Instances like this took me out of the movie even when I was getting very much absorbed into the words and visuals, such as in the case of about twenty four minutes in as Avedon’s snake picture was being discussed. It’s a somewhat funny, but also elegant story that’s very much unusual. I loved the story I was listening to, but was being distracted by the overlapping words. I’m not sure if that was an intentional effort at a transition or not, or a stylistic choice, but it was possibly the only part of the video that I was not a fan of. Regardless, it was easy enough to walk away understanding that, to Avedon, finesse and vitality are the name of the game.

One of the ways Avedon is known to have made huge waves in the fashion photography world is changing exactly how models posed for their pictures. Following World War 2, he breathed life back into the image of France by picturing women and France looking lively. This was as opposed to the statuesque “art deco” style of modeling from the time passed. Movement is very much part of what makes up his style of photography. Quoting the video, “Avedon never forgot the dress, which was usually in motion” (14:34). Flowing fabric is a common thread in his fashion pictures. It’s said in the video too that movement was his way of connecting to the energy of the bustling world. Another way in which he made the fashion photography world more lively with his pictures was including story details in his picture to make the scene feel lived in and functioning.

Another way in which Avedon is credited with revolutionizing the photography scene is bridging the gap between the photographer and the subject, by making sure some semblance of personality makes its way to the viewer. He describes it as making sure he finds something in the shot that grabs his interest and exploits it. He also allows his subject to be actively involved in the picture’s composition, letting them pose themselves or propose ideas that they think would be fun for him to shoot.

Though he started as a fashion photographer, he found himself later in the photojournalism world. In that field, he pays particular attention to “complexity,” and especially the complexity of the human face. He is known to study his models when they’re in front of him. He isn’t afraid to stray from convention there, just as he isn’t afraid to do the same in fashion photography. He’s also known to show in pictures aspects of people’s faces that may be considered frightening. This is shown in cases such as the pictures of his father’s last days as he fought cancer. He also broke the mold in his commercials, putting his and the camera’s focus on the scene, and not the product the commercial is trying to sell.

In the end, I took away from this video and the work/style of Richard Avedon that one needs to be willing to push some boundaries and experiment. One should experiment with their pictures and have fun, they should try to really show and silently tell in their pictures. In photography, a person just needs to know how to look for something to show others.

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