[This review was written by Alissa Darsa, one of our Fall 2010 Interns who is continuing on with us to carry out an e-marketing/e-commerce project (details coming soon).]
Richard Avedon (1923–2004) is credited with redefining the industry of fashion photography in a career that spans more than sixty years. His photographs, on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, are iconic portraits of celebrities and models alike, captured in vibrant images that changed the face of the American woman.
Avedon had what many considered a singular relationship to fashion. Though he stated that you cannot separate fashion from the world, he believed fashion merely provided the textile, pattern, and color against which to portray his true subjects—women. Throughout his career, Avedon remained captivated by women, what was going on in their heads, under their hats, and behind their eyes. While the textiles may have been secondary, it is clear from his photographs that Avedon’s subjects derived emotions from their clothes. These women allowed themselves to be defined by fashion, which served as a vehicle through which they exuded joy, drama, and glamour.
Avedon’s style, often described as exuberant, is beautifully displayed in a series of photographs, magazine covers, and advertisements that encompass almost six decades. Separated by decade, the exhibition reads not only as a tribute to Avedon’s genius in the medium, but also as an historical testament to the dynamic lifestyle of the twentieth-century woman.
Photographs taken in Paris immediately following World War II express an uninhibited desire to recapture France in its pre-War glory and his images communicate a profound sense of optimism amidst cancan dancers and casinos. During the 1960s Avedon’s photographs vividly represented the transformative years defined by sexual liberation and social upheaval; his images keenly depict the confident women that encapsulated the era. Throughout his career, Avedon captured of some of the most recognizable faces in the fashion industry.
Avedon’s unique exploration of the American woman, whether modeling on the streets of Paris or posing for the cover of Vogue, remains poignant today. More than anything, Avedon knew how to create a captivating image, one that was innovative in its style and remarkable in its representation. These are the images that shaped American consciousness and Avedon is still remembered as a revolutionary in his profession.
[The exhibition continues at the MFA until January 17. Link here for more information.]