Photography Everywhere: Avedon to Leibovitz

The Model as Muse exhibition is up at the Met, a show of photographer Richard Avedon’s work will be up at the International Center of Photography as of Friday, and I’m reading Annie Liebovitz’s At Work, a biography of her photographic life. So photography is on my mind.

Avedon, as you can see above, is know for breaking up the static, staid poses used before and introducing movement and energy. ICP also says he anticipated “many of the cultural cross-fertilizations that have occurred between high art, commercial art, fashion, advertising, and pop culture in the last twenty years.”

This brings us to Leibovitz’s body of work quite concisely.
Fashion, check.
Commercial art, see litany of Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Vogue covers.
Fine art, see image above of artist Keith Haring dressed as his work.
Advertising, check.
Her career began in art school in San Francisco. In her third year, she began taking photographs for Rolling Stone magazine, then a small publication. She worked with them for years, going on tour to take photos of the Rolling Stones and taking the last photos of John Lennon before he was assassinated.

Later she came to New York to work for Vanity Fair, and it was only then, between fashion and political shoots, that she begun to consider doing advertising. Before she had always been held back by her fine art background and her difficulty photographing to someone else’s standards. The advertising she did end up doing was a series a black and white portraits of famous people for American Express–one where her creativity was allowed to come out. That was the beginning of many successful advertising campaigns–and you get the sense Leibovitz never let her creativity be trampled upon. (Of course, as one of the biggest photographers of her day, she does had some clout.)

TeedleDee and TweedleDum with Alice from the Alice in Wonderland series

Chuck Close, artist, as the Wizard of Oz

Looking back over her work, the photographs I still enjoy most are from some of her more imaginative fashion sets. She does fantastical storylines with clothes to match, like the ones above. She has a range of different, innovative work and her portraits wonderfully capture a range of interesting personalities (including Queen Elizabeth of England). The collection of her photographs in this book show someone who had been in touch with pop culture and made more of it and who has seen people and done more than document them, she exposes them.

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