He was one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. His portraits of celebrities, models, artists and kings are legendary. Sophia Loren, Truman Capote, Judi Dench, Henry Kissinger and even the Duke of Windsor: Richard Avedon had them all.
His career began in the 1940s as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. Like Cecil Beaton, he mostly worked outside the studio. However, his photographs are not as staged as Beaton’s and he captures his models in seemingly banal situations – except, they often wear haute couture. He shows his subjects in motion, which makes them appear much more dynamic and effortless than, say, in Beaton’s work.
From the 1950s onwards, Avedon turned more and more to portrait photography. He adopted an entirely different style by stripping the scene to the bare minimum, often merely using a white background and the naturally available light. This creates fascinating contrasts between dark shadows and glistening whites – greys feature less prominently. These portraits appear very clear and unadorned – ‘authentic’ to use one of these horribly vacuous terms with which people like to describe photographs. I believe he wanted to create a personal, if not intimate, moment with the people being portrayed. Hence, they appear either deeply melancholic (like Marilyn Monroe, for example) or dynamic and almost giddy (like Charly Chaplin with his devil horns).
Avedon’s personal style, i.e., his sense of dressing, seems far less complex than his photographs – but no less exciting. In my eyes, his appearance matches his photography style very well: In the 1950s, he wore blue or grey single-breasted suits, his tie was casually tied and the top button of his shirt was undone. Later, the suit disappeared and he was more often seen in the so-called Canadian Tuxedo: denim shirt and denim jacket with denim jeans (think Justin Timberlake at the 2001 American Music Awards).
Like his photographs, the ultimate Richard Avedon suit would have to be simple and clean: A single-breasted suit in midnight blue gabardine with a low closing button. IMHO, the twill’s structure would go very well with Avedon’s casually elegant appearance. Hence, the stylisation would also have to be straightforward: two flap pockets, no buttonhole(s) on the lapel and a single high vent. Combine it with a cream pinpoint shirt with a soft button-down collar, three-button cuff and a knitted blue tie. The trousers would have no turn-ups, their cut would be slightly narrower than usual here at Mogg’s and I would suggest a black crocodile leather belt to finish off the perfect Avedon look. YS/TG/MM