Exhibition review: Richard Avedon – People

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Ian Potter Museum of Art. Melbourne
until 15 March 2015

As a photographer invested with fame, Avedon (1923-2004) coursed through the high echelons of the literary and cinematic world in which the US is both prolific and monopolistic. Occasionally he included stars from beyond, like the Beatles.
They’re excellent portraits, with subtle expression, which you can examine at the Potter museum, curated by Christopher Chapman of the National Portrait Gallery. They seldom appear strained or star-struck. If anything, they’re often a bit deadpan, thanks to a white backdrop that Avedon used as a default, unless shooting on location.

While Avedon’s world was busy faking it, the photographer sought realities that are untouched by the publicity machinery in which he was enmeshed. Since the 1940s, he photographed street life in New York, a project for which he turned down a commission by Life Magazine to pursue the vision autonomously as an artist.

By Robert Nelson

Accompanying photograph: Kate Moss. New York 1996 by Richard Avedon

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