Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Richard Avedon

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit this to you, but my initial reaction to Richard Avedon's "In the American West" was neutral, leaning slightly to the negative. I shouldn't be ashamed, because as we grow as photographers, artists, and our tastes and appreciations should change... or at least update a bit.

I was working on my own portrait work at the time, and though it was very different, I feel like I should have known better and appreciated the work immediately. See, my real introduction to his work was at an event where he was speaking. I looked up a bit of the work online for reference, and found it to be a bit too high contrast for my tastes. But the problem is that nothing has its true tonalities represented well on the web. Plus, I think it was the glaring white backgrounds that threw me off. Throw in the fact that I found Avedon to be quite unlikable that evening, and you can imagine why I really couldn't wait to leave the auditorium.

Fast forward a few years. Avedon has died, and I find myself in a Half Price Books downtown with some time to kill. It just so happens to be the store with the rare book collection, and I find an original (and might I mention, HUGE) copy of the "In the American West" book.

Stunning is the first word that comes to mind. It became instantly clear why these were hailed as masterpieces. Such luscious tonalities. But I'm sure even the diminished scale (the original prints were larger than life, I believe) failed to do the images justice.

So I've come around, and now love this work. I think about it on occasion because I find myself nearly falling in lock-step with some of his ideas and that makes me want to do something completely different. (Inspiration is one thing, but I fear comparison... seems to dilute both artists' imagery unless one is supremely famous like Avedon.)

So this is my first post. I have other web sites on which I post my work and occasionally express opinions, but I look at this as a clean slate and a chance to express the kind of opinions I might not want forever tied directly to my name. I'm not ashamed of my beliefs, but when things become part of a written record there tends to be a little more hesitancy. I hope to avoid that. So I'm a coward.