I have always been an Avedon fan, but after viewing his new exhibit at the SFMOMA "Richard Avedon: Photographs: 1946-2004," I look at the iconic photographer in a new light. A raw, intense, emotional spotlight.
New York-born Avedon was an integral part of fashion in the '60s — you probably recognize Twiggy's hair and Dovima with elephants. These were from his decades as the staff photographer at Harpers Bazaar. He then delved into the zeitgeist of the turbulent '60s, shooting portraits of players in the sexual and intellectual counterculture movements; the Beatles, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Malcolm X, and Andy Warhol were all present in one room. One photo that had me mesmerized was a glimpse of Warhol's scar-ridden torso; it was provocative yet melancholy, further feeding into the artistic enigma that is Warhol.
One series in particular intrigued: "In the American West" (1980-85). While it was exciting to look into the eyes of famed writers, artists, political figures, and icons, it was the real people of our country — oil workers, a 13-year-old rattlesnake wrestler, drifters, carnies, waitresses — that evoked life, real humanity.
Avedon passed away in 2004 and this is the only US venue for this exhibition — the first major retrospective of his work since his death. If you happen to be in San Francisco July 11 to Nov. 29, be sure to eat some Avedon for breakfast, it is an utterly fulfilling, eye-opening experience. See some selections from the exhibit.