The Richard Avedon Foundation
When Richard Avedon was a little boy, his parents would orchestrate a yearly family picture to be taken on somebody else's (better) front lawn, with borrowed dogs. Maybe this recurring pictorial lie is what prompted Avedon to look for truth in each and every one of the countless portraits he shot throughout his 60-year long career.
Portrait, as Avedon saw it, is never an objective representation of a person's appearance, personnality, or character - it is only ever a record of the relationship that is established between the photographer and the photographee at a particular moment. And so Avedon, as he moved from working for Harper's Bazaar to setting up his own studio and becoming Vogue 's lead photographer, made it his specialty and mission to squeeze the most truth out of that very moment.
Avedon's signature technique was to punctuate each shooting session with carefully investigated questions and comments that would throw his model off balance, revealing, for a fraction of a second, the most guarded faces of their personnality. This is how Avedon immortalized the fragility and doubt in Marilyn Monroe, or the touchingly comical synchrony that existed between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Avedon's legacy glitters with XXth-century glam, from Hollywood to pop music and Cold War politics. However his true artistic heart may have lain elsewhere, closer to the worker's suburbs and the borrowed dogs of his childhood. In the 1970', Avedon undertook a six-year long roadtrip through the American West, photographing anyone he found "interesting". The large-print, black & white portraits, decried by some as a miserabilist view of the United States, are one of his most valuable contributions to American portraiture, and were featured prominently in the extremely successful 2009 Avedon retrospective at the Foam museum in Amsterdam.
Since Avedon's death in 2004, his legacy has been kept alive by the Richard Avedon Foundation. A project conceived by Avedon himself during his lifetime, the foundation is dedicated to the diffusion of the photographer's work and vision - one that sees in every person a subject of human and artistic value in itself, no dogs needed. Like Sally Mann, Richard Avedon is represented by the Gagosian Gallery.