Of the many insights to be gleaned from the upcoming exhibition at the International Center of Photography featuring the work of Richard Avedon's work from 1944-2000, I found it particularly fascinating that the photographer would forge such intense connections with his subjects that he would often leave sittings feeling embarrassed over what they shared. The show explores these intimate relationships and his many contributions to fashion photography over the course of more than a half-century.
In 1944, at a mere 21 years-old, Avedon began his prolific career at Harper's Bazaar, working as a staff photographer. At the time, the fashion world, accustomed to seeing magazine pages full of women dispensing static, motionless poses, was ripe for a force like the young lensman to enter the scene.
Avedon, under the guide of Bazaar's art director Alexey Brodovitch, broke the norm and brought the models to life, transporting them from the studio to the street and using the city as his canvas for more youthful, energetic photos.
By pushing the boundaries of fashion photography—most notably his cinematic narrative of the couture collections in 1950s Paris which transformed the dull postwar city into a glamorous fashion meccamdash;Avedon's work became one of the most recognizable and oft-imitated styles to date.
Forward-thinking and sophisticated, Avedon encouraged his models to embrace and express themselves, beginning with the newfound power women gained during the mid-twentieth century to the sexual revolution of the late '60s. It was around then when he took candid snapshots of models sprinting and playing leapfrog, first introducing the trademarked "Avedon blur."
The massive collection of photographs he left behind is a true testament to his complete dedication to his work. Legend has it that if a day passed without doing something related to photography, Avedon felt as though he had forgotten to wake up.