The Eye of Avedon

On a recent trip to Paris, I made the Jeu de Paume a priority destination to feast my eyes on a major retrospective of photographs taken by Richard Avedon, whose art has captured great moments in fashion since the 1940s. The thought of seeing “Dovima with Elephants” (1955 for Harpers, featuring a lovely Dior evening gown) up close in large scale brought goosebumps up my arms, but in reality, I found the fashion portion of the exhibit a bit disappointing. The photographs were small, and there were so many people crowded around, it seemed viewing them in a book would be just as satisfying. Leaving that hall, I wandered through a wonderful section of famous and not so famous faces captured in time by Avedon, which was much more satisfying, but then I entered into a photographic experience I never expected. Avedon’s less fashionable photos were mind-blowing! The real, raw humanity captured in black and white rocked me to the core. His “American West” series I had seen in books, but when I found myself looking into the eyes of these larger than life images, I truly felt like I was seeing the soul of America. These works were criticized for being over staged, but in my view, that’s what made them great. Like his fashion photographs, the American West series read like portrait paintings, where the viewer is drawn to the eyes and cannot escape the feelings the artist has crafted.eyeofavedon


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