Avedon Expo

A quick belated review of the Richard Avedon expo at the Musée Jeu de Paume in Paris…

I visited this about 3 weeks ago and just now am getting around to blogging about it. There are about 200 photos from the entire career of this American photographer of fashion and poverty.

The first section of the exposition is primarily fashion photography with quite a few photos taken during his time in Paris working for Vogue, Cosmo, etc. The idea of ripping of the roof tiles to let in natural light in his Parisian studio was revolutionary at the time – amazing how times change as the “Velux” is all the rage today as are lofts with skylights. His photos had that Doisneau impromptu feeling despite the fact that both he and Doisneau very carefully set up and choreographed all their scenes.

The exposition then moved into his portaits. The contrasts in his work, driven by relentless black and white close-up head shots, are jolting. The juxtaposition, for example, of Eisenhower and a living ex-slave back in the 50’s was particularly amazing and thought-provoking. The 69 power portraits from 1976 were very insightful, especially given that some of the names still in the news (George Bush Sr., Donald Rumsfield, Jerry Brown, etc.) were already of influence back then. There was a great portrait of Reagan, governor of California…

There was also a 60’s room with amazing shots of the Beatles, Janice Joplin, and Andy Warhol’s Factory. One of my favorites was a blurry shot of Malcolm X, capturing the ethereal feel of this icon with such a pervasive impact on the 60’s and 70’s despite his early death.

The exposition then moves into the emotionally charged American West series he did during the 70’s and 80’s. Jarring, challenging, heart-rending…these portaits of the underside of American capitalism as incredibly vibrant and alive. How he could take bums and homeless crazy people and turn them into beautiful works of art is simply incredible. One wonders whether any of the money that Avedon made off of the sale of the book and rights on the photos made it back to any of these participants in his art…

The end of the show compiled the photos Avedon took before passing away in 2003. Still in full control of his vision, his portrait of Rushdie is fantastic, as are his self-portraits.

As I don’t follow photography too much, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy this particular expo as much as I did. Thanks also goes out to Maïté for proposing the idea 🙂


About mfinocchiaro

IT Architecture Guru for large PLM software company but dabbling in Web 2.0 and other stuff.
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One Response to Avedon Expo

  1. Pingback: » Avedon Expo »Digital Photography

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