Philip Gefter’s new biography, “What Becomes a Legend Most,” argues for Avedon’s place as one of the 20th century’s most consequential artists.
The issue is pressing while reading “What Becomes a Legend Most,” Philip Gefter’s wise and ebullient new biography of Richard Avedon. Gefter takes the reader inside so many of Avedon’s photo shoots, and so deftly explicates his work, that you’re thirsty to sate your eyes with Avedon’s actual images.
In 1964, the two artists published “Nothing Personal.” This fall, a reissue will include this image of one of the last living Americans born into slavery.
Avedon and Baldwin were two of the late twentieth century’s more self-exposed creators. The two met in high school—at DeWitt Clinton, in the Bronx. They worked on The Magpie, the school’s literary magazine, together, but fell out of touch as adults. “Nothing Personal” was Dick’s idea. He’d been assigned to shoot his old friend for a magazine; that’s how they got reacquainted. At the time, Baldwin’s fame was at its apex. His “Down at the Cross” had appeared in The New Yorker, in 1962, as an astonishing “Letter from a Region in My Mind,” in which he criticized the Christian religion as a disfiguring phenomenon among the poor blacks he had grown up with. Baldwin agreed to do a book with Dick immediately, the photographer recalled, and he was in line with Dick’s idea that the book should reflect America now. Baldwin worked on the first bits in Paris and Puerto Rico before finally finishing the twenty-thousand-plus-word essay as the book was about to go to press. (David Baldwin, the writer’s younger brother, helped with research, as did Dick’s friend Marguerite Lamkin.)
Avedon – Start With Fashion, End With Art
Five years after Richard Avedon’s death at 81 the International Center of Photography is setting the record straight. Avedon was indeed a great artist, and his fashion photographs are his greatest work.
Richard Avedon, Master of Cruel
The question was always a problem for Richard Avedon. Even in the final decade of his life and career as the most celebrated, ridiculed, honored, debated portrait and fashion photographer of his time, journalists and critics would posit the same intolerable, unbelievable notion: Is photography really art? And it didn’t sound much kinder coming from his friend Charlie Rose, playing the genial provocateur and devil’s advocate for the TV viewers at home in 1993. Anyone watching could have detected Avedon’s moment of pain. “Listen, that is such a bogus and nitwit thing to ask .”