Richard Avedon, Truman Capote and the brutality of photography

As the chief curator of The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography, I’ve been working on the photos of fashion photographer and Portrait photographer Richard Avedon on a few occasions over the course of my 16-year tenure. I was the curator of my first show that showcased his work back in 2007. The most recent exhibit, ” Richard Avedon: Relationships,” is currently being shown in Milan.

Avedon’s portraits are so full of subtle details that they are more interesting than looking at the person in person. In his photos, the expression, gestures, clothes, and facial characteristics all tell a story about the subject. Their eyebrow hairs, wrinkles, makeup, teeth, and eyes tell an interesting story. The extremely detailed images invite you to look at the picture, and, of course, the individual Avedon is revealing.

The subject was his writer, Truman Capote, who became a close collaborator and friend. Avedon produced a very distinct portrait of Capote, the first one portrait in the year 1955 when both were in their 30s, and the later one in 1974, when they were in their midlife.

The two photographs displayed in Milan in tandem show Avedon’s unrelenting examination. The first one highlights Capote’s youthfulness and sexuality. In the final image, the writer’s grueling years are visible on his face and suggest that aging has slowed him down.

Friends and collaborators

Avedon, Born in 1923 and passed away in 2004, began his professional career in the 1940s working as a staff photographer at Harper’s Bazaar. His fashion photography featured glamorous models sporting the latest trends and posing in exotic Parisian places. The studio photos he shot were glistening with class, and thanks to a lighting technique that he created, which he named”the “beauty light,” Avedon fascinated the readers of the magazine.

Avedon first took a picture of Capote in a portrait of the author in 1955, at the time that the writer was only 31. In the year 1955, Capote was a rising literary superstar. His novel from 1948, ” Other Voices, Other Rooms,” was first published when the author was only 24 years old and was greeted with acclaim from critics and even controversy due to its openly gay character.

They were both members of the New York art and culture scene and had a lot of acquaintances and friends. Avedon’s photo shows the young man’s torso not dressed, eyes shut, arms tucked back, and his chin up.

The photographer’s choice of a pose reveals the fragility of young Capote. Capote’s expression is calm, and he doesn’t show any emotion; as his eyes are shut, and his eyes are closed, viewers can look at him even though the artist doesn’t respond to their gaze. Avedon put Capote before a white backdrop. The large space surrounding Capote is what sets him apart from all the rest, providing a calm and pure image.

‘Truman Capote,’ New York, Oct. 10, 1955. Photograph by Richard Avedon. (c) The Richard Avedon Foundation

The year was 1959. Avedon and Capote collaborated on a book called ” Observations,” which contained a selection of Avedon’s portraits as well as an ongoing narrative by Capote. The writer is also seen, in suspender, towards the end of the book on a photograph painted by Avedon, which lacks any or none of the intangible qualities that were present in the earlier image from 1955.

Capote was also the author of a three-page piece on Avedon in the first issue of “Observations,” praising the photographer for his clear perception, prolific output, and broad artistic influence.

In an email from 1959 addressed to Avedon Capo, te describes Avedon as a “beloved collaborator,” compliments the book’s final version, and praises Avedon for “doing handsomely with our little tale.”


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