Photography takes us on a journey.
Places we have may never been, landscapes we may have never seen and into people lives that we have never met.
Great photographs have the ability to take us to the very heart of the subject matter they portray, and great photographers are often able to see into the very soul of their subjects.
Richard Avedon was one such artist.
Born on May 15th 1923, he began studying photography in 1944.
In that same year he decided to approach a department store to lend him some high end fashion, which he then photographed.
The results being so fabulous, the store Bonwit Teller, paid him commission for the shots.
The following year he was hired by Harpers Bazaar, edited by the fabled Diana Vreeland, for their social pages and the fashion scene.
In 1962 he photographed Australian born international model Maggie Eckhardt. Diana Vreeland recognized his talent and took him to Vogue after leaving Harpers Bazaar in 1962.
In fact he shot most of the HB covers between 1973 to 1988, when Anna Wintour became editor.
It was around this time, 1957 in fact, while they were both at Bazaar, that Paramount Pictures decided to film a darling musical all about fashion and glamour.
One of my most loved movies, Funny Face is a divine romp filled with costumes by Edith Head and Hubert de Givenchy, and using top models of the day Dovima and Suzy Parker to name but a few.
Who could get sick of the ethereal Audrey Hepburn in the role of Jo Stockton, a would be beatnik “plain jane” working in a esoteric bookstore “Embryo Concepts” in New Yorks’ Greenwich Village.
Her world is turned upside down in an instant.
Barging in to her safe haven, are the staff of Quality magazine, loosely based on the publication Vogue and bossy editor Maggie Prescott, a thinly veiled Diana Vreeland.
They have decided that a more “intellectual” approach for their fashion shoot is needed, hence the bookstore setting.
In swan stylists, model and editor tossing books around and creating general havoc in Jo’s philosophic cave.
Then, most importantly photographer Dick Avery enters the scene.
The debonaire Fred Astaire is just perfect as the character said to have been based on the renowned snapper Richard Avedon.
They decide to use Jo in one of the photos and on return to head office, Avery realises she is perfect model material.
Avedon supplied some of the stills for the movie, including it’s most famous image of Audrey.
Intentionally overexposed, the close up focuses on her features.
Eyes, eyebrows and mouth are magnificent.
She was his muse.
To quote the man
“ I am and forever will be devastated by the gift of Audrey Hepburn before my camera. I cannot lift her to greater heights…
…She is already there. I can only record. I cannot interpret her. There is no going further than who she is…
…She has achieved in herself the ultimate portrait.”
Avedon’s style was revolutionary in the fashion world.
At a time when models were literally clothes horses with no feeling, he showed them as real people, with real emotion, not just store mannequins.
He used strobe lighting, wide angled lenses and exaggerated angles to create dramatic and innovative images.
The whimsical portrait titled Dovima with Elephants (yes the same Dovima that played the model Marion in Funny Face), is one of the most iconic images of its time.
In fact I would argue of all time.
It’s line, form and elegance all in one frame. Taken in August 1955, it shows Dovima wearing the first evening dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior.
Avedon often chose original settings to capture the moments.
We are lucky enough to be able to take in the exhibition “Richard Avedon People” on at the Ian Potter Museum of Art housed at the University of Melbourne.
From the 6th of December 2014 till the 15th March 2015, 80 original portraits will be on display by this incredible photographic artist.
Images of the rich and famous will hang along side the unknown, everyday folk who fascinated this genius of photography.
This is a man who was all about his subject and capturing the essence of spirit, sadness and love through the lens.
I can’t wait to take in this exhibition full of fascinating characters and their sunny, funny faces.
Jo Bayley, Fashion Editor, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014