Richard Avedon (1923–2004) was a photographer.
Avedon, who was born and lived in New York City, joined the armed forces in 1942 during World War II, serving as Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the U.S. Merchant Marine. After two years of service, he left the Merchant Marine to work as a professional photographer, creating fashion images and studying at the Design Laboratory of the New School for Social Research.
Avedon began working as a freelance photographer, primarily for Harper’s Bazaar at 22. After guest-editing the April 1965 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Avedon quit the magazine after facing a storm of criticism over his collaboration with models of colour. He joined Vogue, where he worked for more than twenty years. In 1992, Avedon became the first staff photographer at The New Yorker. During this period, his fashion photography appeared almost exclusively in the French magazine Egoïste.
Throughout, Avedon ran a successful commercial studio, working with the likes of Calvin Klein, Revlon, Versace and many more. He is also known for his extended portraiture of the American Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam war and a celebrated cycle of photographs of his father, Jacob Israel Avedon. In 1976, for Rolling Stone magazine, he produced “The Family,” a collective portrait of the American power elite at the time of the country’s bicentennial election. From 1979 to 1985, he worked extensively on a commission from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, ultimately producing the show and book In the American West.
Avedon’s first museum retrospective was held at the Smithsonian Institution in 1962. Many major museum shows followed, including two at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978 and 2002), the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (1970), the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (1985), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1994). His first book of photographs, Observations, with an essay by Truman Capote, was published in 1959. He continued to publish books of his works throughout his life, including Nothing Personal in 1964, Portraits 1947–1977, An Autobiography (1993), Evidence 1944–1994, and The Sixties.
After suffering a cerebral hemorrhage while on assignment for The New Yorker, Richard Avedon died in San Antonio, Texas on October 1, 2004. He established The Richard Avedon Foundation during his lifetime.